tutoring doesn't work

What Can You Do if Tutoring Doesn’t Work?

Tutoring is supposed to help students excel in their studies, and it almost always succeeds. However, sometimes tutoring doesn’t work. Before we start pointing fingers, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not the end of the world. There are many reasons why tutoring might not work, and there are solutions for each.

If Tutoring Doesn’t Work, Here’s Why

A rewarding tutoring experience starts and ends with the tutor themselves. Tutors work based on the philosophy that any student is capable of learning any concept, and it’s the tutor’s job to figure out the best way to teach the student those concepts. Of course, the student needs to make an effort to learn the material, so it’s a two-way street.

When tutoring doesn’t work, it’s important to identify precisely why. Once you know the problem, you can make appropriate adjustments and continue on the road to success. Here are a few issues that might arise, each accompanied by practical remedies.

Unrealistic Expectationstutoring doesn't work student

It’s great to be ambitious (we highly encourage it!), but there’s a limit to what human beings can achieve. Given sufficient time and resources, we can accomplish anything, and that’s an apt mantra for tutoring. Unfortunately, sometimes the ‘sufficient time and resources’ part is left out of the equation.

Improving a student’s math proficiency from ‘emerging’ to ‘extending’ is possible, but it can’t be done within two weeks. Becoming conversational in French is a fantastic goal, but it requires a full commitment. As long as you take these things into account, everything will go smoothly. If you don’t, tutoring might not work.


Tutors, students, and parents need to agree on well-defined goals before tutoring begins. Try using the SMART goal-setting format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Everyone involved in the tutoring process should know exactly what the goals are, recognize reliable ways of measuring progress toward those goals, and agree on a date by which those goals will be accomplished.

With goals in sight, a tutor can assemble a plan to help their student achieve everything they wish to achieve. As long as the tutor and student have an appropriate timeframe, they’ll have no problem meeting or exceeding any goal.

Not Enough Timetutoring doesn't work schedule

Time is something of which we can never have enough, and that simple fact can impact the tutoring process. If tutoring doesn’t work, the problem might be related to time, specifically a lack of it.

You can usually trace a lack of time back to unrealistic goals, but that’s not always the problem. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to fully explain a challenging concept before an important exam. Maybe a student hasn’t spent enough time with a certain subject to feel comfortable moving on, hurting their confidence. These are signs that something needs to change.


If there isn’t enough time, more time needs to be made. It sounds impossible, but it can be done. This might mean scheduling more/longer tutoring sessions or dedicating free time toward studying.

To put things in perspective, a one-hour tutoring session represents 0.6% of the 168 hours in a week. If that’s the only time learning is happening, it’s going to be very difficult to retain any information.

Since every student is different, there’s no magic number for the perfect length of a tutoring session. But if a student feels like they aren’t getting everything they need from a one-hour session, you might want to increase it to an hour and a half or two hours. Also, the student may need more sessions per week to help keep the material fresh in their mind.

When learning something new, it’s important to maximize exposure. If you can reduce the amount of time between each visit with the concept, the odds of retention increase dramatically. So, if scheduling more tutoring time isn’t an option, students need to practice on their own time.

Simply telling a student to study won’t help. Studying needs to be done with intent and with good habits. Fortunately, tutors can help students build strong studying routines that will ensure their success. From that point, it’s up to the student to use their time wisely.

If you’d like some additional tips, check out our top three ways to make time for homework, each of which can be applied to studying.

Lack of Interesttutoring doesn't work bored

Tutors heavily invest themselves in the success of their students, and their students need to do the same. If a student doesn’t take tutoring seriously, doesn’t want help, or doesn’t care about the outcome, tutoring won’t work.

Students need to be invested in their own success if tutoring is to be of any benefit. As the proverb goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Just so, tutoring doesn’t work if the student doesn’t want it.


If a student isn’t interested in tutoring, they probably see no value in it. Everyone has their own motivators, and perhaps higher grades aren’t incentive enough. In this case, it’s important to help the student see tutoring through a new lens.

Try to make connections between a student’s coursework and their out-of-school interests. If they can see how their studies relate to the things they care about, they’ll be a lot more likely to apply themselves. This could mean incorporating a student’s passions into normal schoolwork or having a deep discussion about how a particular school subject will aid a student in pursuing their passions.

One’s experiences in school and the real world are completely interdependent: an education can open exciting opportunities in the real world, and real-world interests can enhance the education process. From the perspective of a child, however, it can be difficult to see the correlation between school and the real world. In this case, it becomes the tutor’s (and the parents’) responsibility to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood.

Once a student understands and appreciates how school and tutoring can benefit them in the long run, they’ll be more likely to take interest. If not, there might be a deeper issue.

The Tutor Isn’t the Right Fit

Successful tutoring is dependent on mutual trust and respect, and good tutors focus on building the rapport to facilitate that. If these criteria aren’t met, it’s difficult to make progress toward an agreed-upon goal.

For one reason or another, a tutor and student might not get along. In this case, it’s sometimes possible to work through differences and develop a sort of understanding. But certain instances might require an alternate approach.


Before you start searching for a new tutor, have a discussion with your current tutor. Listen to their side of the story and try to figure out why they keep hitting roadblocks. Reconcile their thoughts with how your child feels about the process and make sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes it’s just a simple misunderstanding that can be resolved by revisiting the tutoring expectations.

If things still aren’t working, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean you have a difficult student, and it doesn’t say anything about you as a parent. It just means it’s time to move on and try a different tutor.

Bear in mind that the conduct of one tutor doesn’t necessarily reflect the entire agency, so don’t discredit them immediately. If your tutor belongs to an agency, ask the agency if they can pair you with someone else on their roster. The ability to quickly find a new tutor is one of the many perks of hiring a tutoring agency.

If you’ve decided to hire a new tutor, check out our how to hire a tutor checklist to help you find the best fit.

If Tutoring Doesn’t Work, We Can Helptutoring doesn't work success

After having a difficult tutoring experience, it’s easy to feel discouraged. We’re here to remind you that your child is perfectly capable of finding success no matter what success looks like to them.

At Tutoring…With a Twist*, we take care to match students with tutors who will make a good fit. To enhance the learning process, our tutors prioritize building rapport and developing strong foundations of trust. Our approach empowers your child to unlock their own potential and build the confidence to believe they can do anything.

We take full responsibility for your child’s learning, and we go to great lengths to ensure we’re teaching your child in a way that works best for them. When your child gets twisted with us, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. If you’d like to find out more, feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

Whether or not tutoring is working, you can benefit from some extra help; try our favourite education resources!

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*Services provided by With a Twist Education Ltd.

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