Understanding the Difference Between Tutoring and Academic Coaching

Understanding the Difference Between Tutoring and Academic Coaching

At Maryland Teacher Tutors, we are often asked about the difference between two of the services we offer - tutoring and academic coaching. Parents want to make informed decisions about the needs of their child and we want to make sure they walk away feeling clear on their choices. 

Tutoring vs. Academic Coaching

One of the easiest ways to delineate the differences between tutoring and academic coaching is to consider tutoring as subject, or content- based, while coaching's reach extends beyond the subject and the classroom.

  • Tutoring is great for a student who is struggling with how to set up basic math equations in Algebra class.

  • Academic Coaching is great for a student who struggles to understand basic math equations, read rubrics, stay organized, manage time, and/or has little confidence… in all classes.

An Example

Let's consider the student, James, and see if tutoring or coaching would be best for him.

James has separate binders for each of his school subjects. Sometimes he mixes the math with the reading and the reading with the history, but overall, it doesn't affect his ability to complete his required assignments and turn things in per his teacher's expectations.

James carries an A average in all of his classes, except for science, despite the fact that he is completing his assignments and turning things in on time. He feels confused about the science concepts he is learning and gets stuck on questions when he takes exams, resulting in poor grades.

Does James need tutoring or coaching?

James would be an excellent candidate for science tutoring. His issue is content based, not executive functioning skills based. 

Another Example

Now, let's consider Madison and see if tutoring is a fit, or if coaching might be better.

Madison also has separate binders for each school subject, but somehow, she misplaces homework, loses track of what assignments are due, and doesn't seem to understand why this keeps happening. Some days, she blames her teachers. Other days, she ignores that there is even a problem. Still other days, she feels like a failure and has very little confidence.

She has a B average in her classes, but she could easily carry an A average if she was more thorough and paid closer attention to rubrics and teacher expectations.

Does Madison need tutoring or coaching?

Madison would be a great candidate for academic coaching. She's not performing at her highest potential because she needs guidance in identifying barriers to success and could benefit from learning executive functioning skills. In other words, she would do well if she learned how to self regulate by managing tasks, being organized, and prioritizing things from most to least important. 

Choosing What is Best for your Child

Tutoring is usually specific to subjects. If your child struggles with algebra, they need an algebra tutor. Coaching covers subjects, but more than that, it covers the whole child. Academic coaches teach children skills that can be applied across ALL content areas. With algebra tutoring, the algebra grade should go up. With coaching, ALL of the grades should go up. 

As you consider whether or not your child needs a tutor or a coach, we'd be happy to steer you in the right direction. Tutoring is typically a scheduled event that is consistent (i.e. every Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm) and coaching is both scheduled and unscheduled. It goes along with the ebbs and flows of life to allow for on-demand support, check-ins, and progress updates.