Sunday, September 03, 2017

Teaching one-to-one classes

Benjamin Correa  (Final project for the course Writing for Teachers)

Teaching English in a one-to-one situation differs significantly from the traditional classroom modus operandi. There is only one student with the teacher’s undivided attention and no opportunities to have students experiment with peers with a similar English knowledge level. Therefore, a different approach must be sought to better mould the class to this kind of situation. In fact, this is a particularly challenging teaching practice that frequently gets overlooked in TEFL courses (WILBERG, 2014, I).
          Commonly, the one-to one arrangements deal with a student’s needs instead of a pre-arranged, set-hours course. The need for individualization and to meet the students’ needs is important when teaching groups, but when teaching one to one, it becomes more evident. With these parameters in mind, it is important to adapt the class structure so to both favour the end user’s purposes and offer a good foundation to use the language in any given situation. However, to mould the class to these situations, some aspects must be taken into consideration.
          First, the student-teacher dynamic is changed in a way that, although it is not shaped as a peer-to-peer relationship, there is more of a partnership between them than would be felt in a group class. Also, the decision-making process regarding the class is shared differently from a standard class. In a multiple-student situation, the relationship among the students is that of camaraderie that, necessarily, shifts the class from a teacher to a student-centred dynamic. In a one to one class, this is shifted toward a sort of equilibrium between the teacher and the student.
          Moving along the lines of the teacher-student relationship is the classroom management dynamics, or rather, the pressure both teacher and student have upon themselves (British Council). The student might feel pressured, since there are no peers to share the teacher’s attention, nor is there a time for the “spotlight to be off him”. The teacher, on the other hand, might feel pressured to keep the class interesting and realistic regarding the student’s expectations (WILBERG, 2014, p. 7).
          However, those aspects are not necessarily bad. If the teacher can manage to deal with them, they can be turned in their favour. If the student has the teacher’s undivided attention, that also means he or she has larger opportunities for practice and receive feedback. And if there is a development in the relationship into trustworthiness and lightness, the student might be compelled to engage more using the language he or she’s learning. This means more real-life situations and flourishing development.
          Jeremy Harmer (2014, p. 123) states that confidence building is one of the key aspects of language learning. Therefore, one could assume that without the pressure from peers and with the easiness of an acquainted teacher, the student benefits from this kind of class. Developing at the student’s pace and pushing faster or slower is something that helps confidence building and the language-learning process.
          All things considered, a one to one class brings different challenges and distinct rewards for those involved. The teacher being able to manage the pace and the demands of the student helps him or her to develop confidence and fulfill expectations and personal objectives with the new language. Therefore, the one to one class might be a unique opportunity for personal growth for both teacher and student.


British Council Teaching One to One. Available in:

Harmer, Jeremy (2014) How to Teach English. Essex: Pearson.

Wilberg, Peter (1994) One to One: A Teacher’s Handbook. London: Language Teaching Publications

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