What are the limitations of private tutoring vs. classroom-based language learning?

June 7, 2024 at 2:00 PM – 6 min read

I conducted lessons in a private tutoring setting for some time as well as taught a second language in a classroom. While most people may feel that private tutoring is the preferred method of learning a foreign language, the two approaches to language learning remain quite different, and the limitations of private tutoring become more apparent when the two approaches are viewed side-by-side.

First, there remains limited social interaction during private tutoring. Most private tutoring sessions involve a one-on-one setting between the teacher and the student, which does not lend itself to initiating group activities or to conversing with one’s peers. Next, individual tutors generally have limited pedagogical resources and cannot access the wealth of materials and often expensive subscriptions to multimedia resources afforded by a school’s budget. Another limitation of private tutoring is the lack of real-world practice since classroom settings provide more chances for role-plays, skits, and other interactions with native speakers.

A lack of rich language exchange and cultural immersion posed one of the biggest issues when accommodating students during private tutoring. I could do a lot to help my students when interacting with entire classes. I could ask students at higher language levels to collaborate with students who were newer to the class on projects. Implementing projects at all remained challenging when merely working one-on-one with students. True language exchange occurred in the classroom when the languages were blended together in order to incorporate more of the target language, fostering cultural immersion in the process. It was a win-win for everyone: I could impart both the necessary cultural information and language exchange by creating activities that would be engaging for the learners! However, I could not accommodate students with the same activities or opportunities in a private setting.

The second limitation of private tutoring was less access to the resources of a school’s preplanned curriculum. As most language learners and teachers are aware, the classroom has plenty of resources such as textbooks, workbooks, multimedia, et cetera. These resources are of course available to individuals as well, but at one’s own financial cost. Without colorful visual aids, interactive games, or age-appropriate textbooks, students may not be able to concentrate or remain motivated to continue with their language studies. With my 20+ years of experience in the teaching field, I know how many learning styles every child has, and also that if teachers, with adequate training, follow the psychology concepts related to learning, they can more easily understand different types of learners, their preferences, and the importance of carefully planning the classroom activities and implementing effective group teaching methods. However, if a private tutor—who is untrained in specific pedagogy or does not have adequate resources—begins teaching a language without any awareness of the children’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.), then the tutor may exclusively implement one style at the expense of the others, which would, of course, be disadvantageous to their learner.

Finally, private tutoring lacks sufficient chances to practice language usage in the real world. Most classroom settings provide ample opportunity for the students to simulate real-world situations, which are often difficult to replicate in a private tutoring setting since the focus is generally on specific grammar or vocabulary exercises. Also, a learner would interact only with the tutor for specified intervals and lack access to diversified speaking partners. On the other hand, in a classroom setting, students would practice the language while interacting with one another and receiving feedback from the teacher, making the language learning experience more realistic.

What do you value more? A personalized approach with private-tutoring sessions or classroom-based learning? Please comment or reach out to us with your thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches!

Written by Karla Manuppelli

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