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Tutors in the process of development

Does practice make perfect? How can tutoring develop tutors providing it?

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First published in Polish by Barbara Habrych

I am a tutor, coach and tutor supervisor. Supporting educators in their development of tutoring skills is my everyday work, which I treat as my mission: to introduce changes to Polish education and render it supportive of the development of the potential of pupils and students.

By reading this article, you will learn that tutoring is a developmental process that allows your tutees to "get to know themselves better, develop their talents, skills, strengths and work on them, develop interests and skills needed for self-development or establish and cultivate social relations. Tutoring also reflects values, character building, learning to think independently, reasoning and making wise decisions" [1].

kobieta i mężczyzna przy laptopie

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

I often hear the following question:

What is the difference between mentoring and tutoring?

Basing on the analysis proposed in the book entitled tutoring. Teoria, praktyka, studia przypadków (Tutoring. Theory, practice and case studies)[2] I have prepared a table which describes the most important aspects of each of the methods:






A master possessing expert knowledge


A specialist in using resources


An authority with achievements in his/her field


Tasks – what they do 

  • Teaches thinking
  • Develops relations
  • Takes care of integral development (body, spirit, mind and values)
  • Proposes a selection of issues from the tutee's area of interest


  • Helps with the formulation of objectives, generation of motivation, change and activity and with the maximisation of potential


  • Supports the tutee in the development of his/her vision of the future


  • Shares knowledge, own experience and professional contacts
  • Offers advice
  • Models



  • Essay
  • Case study
  • Tutoring projects
  • Mutual problem solving
  • Active listening
  • Open questions


  • Tools for searching and defining objectives
  • Coaching questions
  • Work on convictions
  • Resource mapping


  • Providing advice and guidance
  • Activity planning
  • Encouraging to take up initiatives
  • Creating professional networking



In my opinion, tutoring is particularly useful for young adults who are not prepared for coaching and do not know how to steer their career in the right direction using their mentor's support. However, they want to gain more knowledge and - in the context of their chosen area - they are looking for an answer to the question: who am I, who can I become, what are my talents and how can they serve others? They want to increase their independence using their tutor's support, learn problem-solving and responsibility, and work on their proper self-esteem.

It is quite obvious that tutoring benefits tutees. However, we rarely look at the tutor and his/her development in this process.

Can the development of anyone called a master in the very definition of tutoring benefit from practising tutoring?

A tutor - meaning who? What competencies should tutors possess?

Marcin Szala[3] indicates four groups of competencies indispensable to anyone wishing to become a tutor:

1. The greatness of the soul (after Aristotle - megalopsychia) – encompassing: awareness of one's strengths and weaknesses, ability to set ambitious and bold goals while being prepared to achieve them, and respect for values.

2. Attentiveness – has two dimensions: it is the ability to notice things and show your tutees that they have been notice; it is about paying attention to them:

"Attentiveness allows tutors to notice something unclear or needs clarification. They will see that something has not been said yet, and they will create a space for discussion" [4].

3. Expertise - knowledge, experience and skills surpassing those of his/her tutees, broadening their horizons and infecting them with the tutor's passion.

4. Interpersonal skills: communicativeness, ability to ask questions and listen, plan, solve conflicts, leadership skills.

So much for the mode

And what do practitioners observe and say?

I asked this question to participants in the Accredited Tutoring Practitioner training course, which I run in cooperation with the Collegium Wratislaviense. This training is intended for practising tutors who have conducted at least two full tutoring processes and are ready for in-depth work, including individual and group supervision.

I asked the following question to several dozens of tutors:

"How have you changed since you started practising tutoring?

I got about thirty replies. I conducted qualitative analysis and selected categories to be given names and supported with quotations.

Category 1: Listening and attentiveness

"Practising tutoring allowed me to be a better, effective, and active listener, more conscious of what I hear. I no longer hurry during a discussion, and I ask questions more often".

"Thanks to tutoring, I started listening more attentively. And to such an extent that sometimes I say nothing at all. It used to be simply inconceivable. I used to talk about any topic at any time. Now I listen more".

"Tutoring teaches me to ask bold questions and listen attentively to their answers. Sometimes, in my mind, I call it Herenowing, meaning being here and now, which immensely influences the future. There will also be a here and now in the future".

"Being more attentive to the tutee. An increased number of questions asked rather than providing ready-made solutions".

The tutorials provided by me allowed me to be a better listener. I no longer hurry during a discussion, and I ask questions more often. I can resist the urge to deliver a lecture. I am more likely to create a space to listen to my tutee's lecture, how he/she understands himself/herself, life, his/her goals and barriers on the way".

Category 2: Openness and energy exchange

"Individual meetings give me a better understanding of my students who are representatives of a different generation, have different values, objectives and priorities".

"I am even more willing to work with students, I can see their enthusiasm, and I like it".

"I am more open to my students' ideas and problems, but I put less pressure on them by allowing them to take responsibility for their work".

Category 3: Confidence in oneself

"I have more confidence in myself because, thanks to practising tutoring, I made more space for the process through which not only my tutee is going but also me - accompanying him/her in fostering his/her own freedom, way and goals".

Category 4: Self-awareness

"The meetings enabled me to get to know others and myself, which is another advantage of the process".

"Tutoring is another mature but also attractive stage in my life. This is a fascinating adventure involving getting to know others and - consequently - myself".

Category 5: Individualisation

"Each person is a different story; it is worth considering when teaching".

"I put more emphasis on personalised feedback".

Category 6: Creativity and freedom in the application of tutoring tools

"My work with students is more systematised and structured. I use more tools".

"I stopped being a slave to tools, I change and modify them to fit the purpose, and I derive lots of pleasure from it".

I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to all participants of the Accredited tutoring Practitioner training courses who shared their reflections on learning and tutor development with me.

PS. I have been gathering the materials to write this text for the last few weeks. I am publishing the text when the war in Ukraine has been raging for a week. Is it worth talking about tutoring in light of this?

Those who participated in the training course on 26-27 February 2022 convinced me that it is.

There is nothing more important than education in war and conflict prevention. And when education can be provided in a personalised form, which takes care not only of the development of skills and knowledge but also helps define and understand values, work on one's own character, and teach critical thinking and decision-making - it becomes the best way of creating societies saying NO to war and violence.

Barbara Habrych business and education trainer, HR and labour market expert. HR specialist with experience in designing and implementing HR processes. Author of development programmes for employees and managers built on business performance models. Co-author of an expert HRM handbook. Certified tutor and trainer of tutors. Career counsellor with a flair for talent discovery. Graduate of the University of Lower Silesia in pedagogy (specialisations: family pedagogy, social psychology in education) and postgraduate studies in human resources management at the Wrocław School of Banking.

[2] Piotr Czekierda, Czym jest tutoring? w: Piotr Czekierda, Bartosz Fingas, Marcin Szala, Tutoring. Teoria, praktyka, studia przypadków, Wydawnictwo Wolters Kluwer, Warszawa 2015.

[3] Marcin Szala, Praca tutorska i proces stawania się tutorem, w: Piotr Czekierda, Bartosz Fingas, Marcin Szala, Tutoring. Teoria, praktyka, studia przypadków, Wydawnictwo Wolters Kluwer, Warszawa 2015.

[4] Ibidem

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Jutro na EPALE ukaże się mój tekst, w którym też zahaczam o ten temat. Opisałem tam badania, które zaginęły gdzieś w odmętach historii, a w których znalazł się model, który fajnie tłumaczy różnice z perspektywy odbiorcy. 

Mowa o czteroetapowym modelu samodoskonalenia Growa. Zdaniem autora - zależnie od tematu i zależnie od umiejętności uczenia się - różni pracownicy potrzebują różnego poziomu i rodzaju wsparcia w trakcie uczenia się. Myślę, że mentoring jest szczególnie pomocny dla początkujących uczących się, którzy muszą odnaleźć się w wielkim świecie wiedzy, a dalej w ramach rozwoju w danej specjalizacji przyda im się tutor i coach, gdy sami już będą ekspertami. 

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jako tutor akademicki (właśnie po CW) bardzo sobie chwalę tę metodę pracy ze studentem. Nie do końca jeszcze przygotowany jest do tego cały "system", ale mimo wszystko można znaleźć na takie działa przestrzeń. A w ogóle bardzo dziękuję za ten tekst, bo na zajęciach  często te różnice muszę tłumaczyć, a tak, to teraz do tekstu odeślę :)

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Bardzo pomocne zestawienie! Dziękuję! Tutoring dobrze sprawdza się w środowisku akademickim. Są uczelnie, które oferują spójne programy i szkolą swoich tutorów. Dla mnie jest to formuła bliska temu, co nazywamy academic advisig. Mam wrażenie, że przez wiele lat na uczelniach dominowało wsparcie przede wszystkim karierowe. Teraz na szczęście wspierany jest rozwój także w innych obszarach. Szkoda tylko, że nie jest to zjawisko powszechne.

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Basiu bardzo dziękuję za wielostronne wyjaśnienie czym się różnią obie role. Z tym zawsze miałem problem. Może w przyszłości po następnych latach doświadczeń i poszerzanych kompetencji zdecyduję się być tutorem. Teraz jednak twój artykuł wykorzystam w myśleniu o nowych projektach i naszych działaniach edukacyjnych. Chętnie poczytam o narzędziach tutorskich i zachęcam Ciebie do napisania takiego artykułu. A może już o tym pisałaś ? W takim wypadku proszę o podanie linku. 

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