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home | Guest Contributers | From Socrates to the SAT: A Brief Hi . . .

From Socrates to the SAT: A Brief History of Tutoring
Bob Lasiewicz
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The use of tutoring as a method of helping someone to learn has been around for a very long time. In fact, it is probably one of the oldest teaching methods. If you think about things you have learned about the life and times of Plato and Socrates in ancient Greece , you will probably recall reading that the children of the wealthy were educated individually or in small groups by masters or tutors. The Socratic Method, a way of questioning a student to help him arrive at a correct conclusion, and often used during tutoring sessions, is based on the writing of Socrates from that time. During the Middle Ages the children of nobles and the wealthy continued to receive their education from tutors. Similarly, children from less wealthy families often became apprentices to learn a craft or skill from a master, another one-to-one form of teaching. Even to become a knight, a young man had to first serve as a squire so that he might learn his craft from the expert he served.

When more formalized educational institutions became available, tutors continued to play an important role in learning. At many well known colleges, such as Oxford and Cambridge , tutors actually lived in the residence halls with the students. This tradition continued as colleges were developed in the United States . For example, since most textbooks during colonial times were typically written in Latin, students wishing to attend Harvard College (now Harvard University ) often required tutoring in Latin prior to even being admitted to the College!  As the country grew, political and social changes such as the advent of land grant colleges and the adoption of open door policies at many post-secondary institutions brought many more students to college, some of whom were not really academically ready for rigorous college study. Once these students were admitted, college administrators had to find ways to help them succeed; tutoring programs became an effective option.  

Tutoring has also flourished in the education of young children. Once a privilege afforded only to the children of the wealthy, tutoring programs are now widely available to students through their schools, churches, and community agencies as well as through private tutorial services. Today, students at all levels receive tutoring to help them master basic skills such as reading and math, difficult content such as chemistry or biology, to prepare for high stakes tests such as the SAT, and for enrichment. 

Note: The preceding article is an excerpt from the "Tutoring Foundations" training program
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