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Are higher grades the only benefit of one-to-one tutoring?

The first benefit of tutoring that comes to mind is that of improved academic proficiency in a given subject. However, tutoring is relevant not only for academics but also for personal development. A trusted mentor can be pivotal in one's life, providing guidance for one's college applications, career path or simply giving encouragement to go on. 

The first time I met my mentor was during college. He was my economics professor but over time, we became close and now we frequently chat during evenings about a wide range of topics. Dr. Brown has given me indispensable advice about the optimal path to academic development at my university. However, the most important part of this relationship for me has been the encouragement and trust I have received from my mentor. There were several occasions in college when I felt hopeless and considered myself a mistake of the admission committee, since I was a non-traditional international student. In times like those, the fact that my mentor, who has accomplished all I ever wanted in my life, believed in my capabilities, was essential in me not giving up and letting go of my doubts. 

The uncertainty and hopelessness which I experienced in college is now a known scientific phenomena named "stereotype threat" by Dr. Steele from University of Berkeley. Steele performed experiments with stereotyped groups in the US such as African-Americans and women, who traditionally underperformed on standardized tests. Steele presented the stereotyped groups with a test of logic in two different settings - first, they were said that the test was diagnostic of their intellectual ability and second, that the test was simply a challenging task non-diagnostic of their ability. Steele found that the stereotyped groups performed significantly better given the second set of instructions. Importantly, non-stereotyped groups such as European-Americans were not impacted by the stereotype threat at a statistically significant level. 

Other researchers have found stereotype threat present in settings such as primary schools, between children from lower and higher socio-economic groups. This phenomena can be explained by the fact that if individuals are subconsciously worrying about the negative stereotypes about their group, their full intellectual ability cannot be utilized for a given task. Sadly, it has been shown that stereotype threat not only decreases one's academic performance but also causes an individual to blame themselves for their perceived failures and makes them risk-avoiding. A great mentor can alleviate this problem by repeatedly ensuring the student about their qualities and subsequently building up the student's self-confidence and readiness for challenges. Such mindset is essential for achievement in one's education and further in life. 

Personal development and encouragement offered by a tutor may be just as important as the academic guidance. This is the case because there is a continuous interaction between achievement and personal qualities: success in any field is hardly achieved without sufficient self-belief and the ability and willingness for a challenge.

Jan Dudek


Bibliography
Claude M. Steele: Whistling Vivaldi (2011)
Désert, Préaux, Jund: So young and already victims of stereotype threat: Socio-economic status and performance of 6 to 9 years old children on Raven's progressive matrices (2009)