Mini-group tutoring: how does it work?

By Virginie Lacomme translated by Mark Stevens
Translation published on April 6, 2023 at 12:30 p.m.
First of all, let us be clear: it works well. It works very well.
Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of this manner of lesson.

What class structures do we have?
First of all, we must emphasize that a tutoring syllabus should really be designed as an à la carte program for your child. If relationships with the class dynamic are problematic (especially in the case of a large class but also in situations of relational difficulties with others in a smaller class), then totally individualized tutoring may be the solution. Children sometimes need a lesson point to be addressed directly to them in order to grasp it. Sometimes children need to be isolated and removed from a poorly functioning group or from particularly toxic peers.

But if your child simply needs a class structure with fewer classmates - or handpicked classmates - then mini-group tutoring is THE solution.

The composition of the mini-group may vary:
  • Students of the same level: ideal for recreating a miniature classroom atmosphere. This option gives a lot of flexibility to the teacher, who can organize group work and effect circulation of the target language. Participation becomes more effective, which promotes healthy and constructive learning. It’s like a normal class, but better.
  • Students of significantly different levels: it can be stimulating when the most advanced students accept the responsibility of supporting and guiding their comrades of a slightly lower level. The teacher must then organize complementary activities, which may give rise to or require a certain pedagogical creativity. This configuration allows children to develop the skills of mutual aid, accountability and autonomy.
  • Students who know each other: perfect for restoring self-confidence and creating a safe and positive climate.
  • Students who do not know each other: recommended for meeting new classmates and developing a network of acquaintances. Fellow students may be the children of colleagues, friends, or people from a certain network (e.g. expats).
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What are the advantages ?
Undoubtedly, the first advantage is the ability to simulate a classroom without going through the school attendance process. This formula is particularly recommended for homeschooling situations.

Secondly, sociability. Students interact with each other, help each other, and work together - and, depending on whether they know each other or not, group tutoring can strengthen their desire to do other activities together (e.g. sports). Some subjects lend themselves especially well to tutoring in mini-groups: modern languages, scientific subjects (NB for experiments, you need to have certain equipment), exam preparation, etc. For example, if you are in your final year of school and you are preparing for exams, it can be very advantageous to take a support course in a mini-group. Your fellow students can give objective assessments of your work and can discuss it constructively, and they can do likewise for your preparation for the International Baccalaureate or A-Levels. In short, the possibilities are endless.

Last but not least, group tutoring helps reduce costs. Instead of paying for a particular lesson for your child, the payment for the lesson is split between several parents, thus making the lesson more economically accessible.

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What are the disadvantages ?
There are some downsides. First: the room. Unless your teacher has a free room - which happens, but is still rare even among the most professional teachers in tutoring - a physical location is necessary for the course to take place.

So several scenarios are available to you. You can provide the room - why not, if you have enough space in your residence? You can also agree with another parent to find a common space and rent it in agreement with the teacher or the school support agency that put you in contact with your teacher. If it is a modern language conversation course, for example, a more informal place can be found - e.g. a park, if the weather is nice, or a visit to a museum or some such cultural space while speaking the foreign language. This can constitute a conversation course.
Of course, you can also have online lessons, thus providing a solution to the spatial problem. This also makes it possible to bring together students from all walks of life, though it can act as a barrier to socialization.

Now let's look at this from the professor's point of view:
Teaching a single student and teaching a group of students are not the same things. Different pedagogical skills must be implemented. A private lesson will require total flexibility from the student under our care; a group course, whether mini or not, will require a balance between individual considerations and group dynamics.

Comparing the prices charged for a mini-group lesson vs an individual lesson is very important: is it a question of charging each student the full price of a private lesson? No, it is not. Once again, it must be recognized that the service given to a single student is not the same as that given to several. In this case, charging each student a lower rate than the teacher would charge a solo student is a way to both make your course profitable and offer parents a competitive rate. It's a question of balance, the main issue being that everyone is satisfied.

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