In 1998 John F. Kain concluded from data analysis that teacher effectiveness in the classroom is 20 times likelier to boost student performance on tests than any other variable, including class size and socioeconomic status[i].
Almost a decade later, in 2007, professors Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, and Jacob Vigdor conducted a study that found that an effective teacher has 14 times the effect on student achievement as decreasing the class size by five students, in other words, an effective teacher is 14 times more effective on student success than reducing the class size by five students[ii].
A year prior, in 2006, Robert Gordon, Thomas Kane, and Douglas Staiger, documented that the difference between the performance of a student assigned to a bottom-quartile teacher as opposed to one assigned to a top-quartile teacher averaged 10 percentile points on a standardized math test[iii].
All of these findings (of which there are several more than the three I cited above) speak to the immense relation between teacher effectiveness and student performance. Perhaps the greatest impact regarding teacher effectiveness on student performance is during the earlier educational stages where a bad or mediocre teacher can leave students’ potential unrealized, however, adult students are also tremendously affected by how dedicated and experienced a teacher is as well.
However unfair this might be, when teacher effectiveness is of the greatest importance, the student has no say on what teacher class he is assigned to; but as those kids with no say grow up into monetarily independent adults and teacher effectiveness is of proportionally less importance, only then can they choose from whom they take educational instruction.
Unfortunately, this freedom to choose who we want to teach us as adults is often almost disregarded. In the context of online language education, most people just don’t take the time to come up with a system that efficiently sifts through the several teacher profiles on websites like italki and instead take lessons from anybody who passes a sloppy filtering system mainly based on cost per hour.
I wrote this guide to help you seize that freedom and use it to your advantage, in order to do this we’ll use a language-learning website called italki which offers language lessons in several languages through their thousands of teachers.
What makes a good teacher
I gag when people simplify the processes behind complex things and make it sound as if those complex things came down to small instances where something so striking or shocking happens that it overshadows everything else and ends up determining the outcome of said complex things. Like in presidential elections, where people forget about how strenuous a presidential campaign is (for all candidates) and just assume after the election is over that a candidate won or lost because of a particular thing that determined the outcome of the election; like Obama’s “Please proceed, governor” or Reagan’s “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”. Mondale (Reagan’s opponent for presidency during the 1984 election) was 56 at the time of the debate and lost in a landslide to Reagan. Reagan’s victory definitely didn’t come down to his witty comeback on the age issue (although it probably helped).
When it comes down to education, most people believe that the best educators are those with the best educational background.
The best educators check a wide number of skills none of which is greatly determined by formal education. Of course formal education matters, but it’s but a fragment of a mosaic, a piece in a puzzle. The real determinant is experience. Experience is the glue that holds together all the fragments of the mosaic.
A typical undergraduate core curriculum for future teachers of English in the United States will feature courses in English composition, English grammar, world history, you name it, but no classroom-related experience.
As a matter of fact, the average teacher is so inadequately prepared to lead a classroom that in the state of Columbia in order to teach reading at the k-12 level applicants “must […] complete two or more years of successful classroom teaching experience.”*
How to find a good teacher out of hundreds of average teachers
We love thinking we are rational beings, but we are not, we are emotional beings, most of our decisions are made intuitively based on preconceptions, which almost always proves to be the wrong way to make decisions.
But we still do it.
This is called confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.*
For example, if we happened to get a high-quality service for cheap once or we were told that we could get a high-quality service for cheap and we truly believed it, that is going to alter our decision making process and make us conclude that it’s possible to get a high-quality service for cheap all of the time even if most of the time this happens to not be the case. If it happened once, confirmation bias will make us believe it can happen all of the time.
In time, confirmation bias creates a deeply engraved misconception, and in the case of paid services, this misconception equates accessibility with quality (as long as I’m paying for it, it ought to be good). Of course, when you think about it carefully, this equation doesn’t make sense, but people behave as if it were true all the time: hire the best mason in town? hell no, better pay that random guy so we can save some money, he’ll do a fine job; pay a cheap babysitter?, why not, it’s just kids, we already paid the neighbour’s 12-year old to take care of them once, what could go wrong this time! The same is true, of course, when we are choosing a language teacher.
We want to save money, it’s in all of us, it’s an innate emotion, but emotions are inherently subjective, numbers are not.
I’m obsessed with statistics, if I could, I would explain everything using statistics, but the truth is that it’s not always possible to use statistics to convey an unbiased message or draw an unbiased conclusion (you politicians!), but the times when it is possible, the conclusions are definite. What’s good about numbers is that numbers have no feelings (the legend says they are of German descent) so there’s no human factor to try and interpret around, which makes numbers and anything dependent on numbers (like statistics) much more reliable than opinions or memories.
So how can we use numbers to find a good teacher?
Hold your horses, young man, let me explain how not to find a good teacher first.
On italki, teachers are asked to not only fill their intro, but to also upload a video. When you are going through, literally, hundreds of profiles, reading intros and watching videos is not only very time consuming, but also completely irrelevant because you are using emotional (and thus subjective) metrics. You should only read intros and watch videos when you’ve narrowed your choices down to a handful of effective teachers to choose the one you believe you’d best click with.
Luckily for us, italki lists on every teacher’s profile the number of lessons and the number of students a teacher has taught, which makes narrowing down our choices like omg sooo easy (read with a high-pitched voice).
The average between number of lessons and number of students is going to reflect how effective a teacher is, for example:
On a sample size of 1000 lessons
A teacher with an average of 8 lessons or more per student is very good.
A teacher with an average of 5 to 7 lessons per student is good*.
A teacher with an average of 3 to 4 lessons per student is average.
A teacher with an average of less than 3 lessons per student is bad.
*While it may seem that because 8 is only 1 number greater than 7, there’s not much difference between a teacher with 8 lessons per student on average and a teacher who has 7 lessons per student on average. However, out of 1000 lessons, the teacher with an average of 8 lessons per student taught 125 students (1000:8=125), and the teacher with an average of 7 lessons per student taught 143 students (1000:7=142.8), this means that the teacher with the 7 lessons per student actually had 18 students who only took one lesson (on average) and chose other teachers instead, this means that the teacher with the 7 lessons per student is less engaging than the teacher with the 8 lessons per student. While it is rather unlikely that all those 18 students were uncommitted with their own studies and just gave up on learning a language because of a reason which is their entire responsability (meaning it’s not the teacher’s fault), it is possible. In the end, it’s up to you to determine if the difference of 1 lesson per student on average between different teachers is good enough an indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness.
You can also use these proportions for smaller sample sizes, the problem with that is that the smaller the sample size the harder it will be to draw any definite conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the teachers you are comparing.
Let’s compare the following two teachers, they both teach the same language, are from the same country, and both are “professional teachers” on italki, which one do you think you’d be most satisfied with?
The average of lessons per student for Teacher A is 2.5
The average of lessons per student for Teacher B is 5.9
Notice how both of them have a 5-star rating but yet one of them has a much higher average of lessons per student and both of them have had a similar number of total students.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to no more than 10 (in most cases it won’t be more than 5) teachers, you will now want to take the time to read teachers’ profiles and watch their introductory videos.
In their profiles and videos they should list the various ways they can help you and what qualifies them to offer instruction in those areas.
If you are deciding between teachers with great numbers of lessons and high averages of number of lessons per student, then experience won’t be a problem. Even if they don’t have experience anywhere else, they have it teaching on italki, so choosing one will come down to personal taste: there are some very euphoric teachers, others who are much more stoic, and of course, some will charge more than others, all of these factors are subjective and dependent on what you are looking for.
If you are, however, deciding between teachers who haven’t taught a great number of lessons, you’ll want to choose the teacher with the most experience (on or outside italki), even if none of them are as experienced as it would be ideal, the odds will always be in your favor if you choose the most experienced one; picking up on what was discussed earlier, the more experienced a teacher is, the more effective she/he will likely be. So if in their profiles they say they can help you with xyz, they will either back that up with experience: “I worked doing xyz for 3 years at Acme Corporation” or with their educational background: “I learned xyz at Harvard”. You’ll have better odds of finding a good teacher if you put experience ahead of education, but if you are choosing between teachers who don’t have any experience at all (try not to find yourself in this predicament) filter them using the next best thing which is educational background. Other things I’d suggest you do before you schedule a lesson are:
- Message the teacher: message your potential teachers with questions, asking how they can help you, or how their lessons are structured, or write them an introduction to start off with the right foot. The point of this, however, is not to get acquainted with the teacher, it is, rather, to see how much effort the teacher puts into his response. Just as much as a thoughtful reply will probably reflect a diligent teacher, a half-assed reply will probably reflect an apathetic teacher.
- Read students’ reviews. Don’t just skim through them, most people don’t want to ruin anybody’s reputation so even if leaving less than 5 stars is an actual reflection of the quality of the lesson they received, they will leave 5 stars anyway. Read what they have to say about the teacher. If too many people leave one-line reviews and don’t sound very enthusiastic about taking more lessons with the teacher, that means it’s probably because the teacher is not very engaging.
Let’s take a look at these two profiles:
This profile is pretty terrible. There’s no reference as to what qualifies this teacher to offer help, no educational background and more shockingly absolutely no reference as to their experience teaching. To top it all up, they finish their profile with a description of their personality, I couldn’t care less.
Great profile. Notice how this teacher emphasizes how he not only has formal education in English-teaching but also how much experience he has doing it.
If you have special requests like you need your teachers to be proficient in teaching your target language for poetry, you will need to send them a message beforehand to have these requests arranged for you.
Italki allows for only 3 trial lessons per user (some people were abusing the system and took only trial lessons from several different teachers) so you will need to narrow your choices down to three teachers and then take trial lessons with all those 3. Or, if you can’t narrow your choices down to three, schedule 30 minute-lessons with those who offer these and trial lessons with the rest.
Who you end up choosing after your trial lessons is entirely up to you. I do suggest, however, that you attend all your lessons with the same concerns, for example, if you want to learn about xyz grammar point in your target language, ask the same thing to all teachers, that way you’ll have the closest to an objective measurement of the effectiveness of each teacher.
The entire process looks like this:
- Select teachers with at least 1000 lessons taught or 100 students taught. Do not take lessons with new teachers, you want somebody else to risk their money and time.
- Determine how many lessons per student on average is a good determining factor in choosing a teacher for you.
- Filter out the teachers who have a worse average-rate of lessons per student than what is ideal to you. You shouldn’t end up with more than 10 prospective teachers, if you do, you’re not filtering correctly.
- Read the teachers’ profiles and watch their videos. Filter out the teachers you believe wouldn’t be a good fit.
- Narrow down your choices to 3 teachers and schedule trial lessons with all 3.
- During your trial lessons, it’s best that you have a pre-planned lesson (with specific questions) that you can repeat with all 3 teachers, that way you can determine who you consider to be the best teacher out of all 3 on a, somewhat, objective basis.
If, for whatever reason, you are trying to decide between teachers with fewer number of lessons than 1000 or fewer number of students than 100, choose the one that has the most experience teaching, try not to take lessons with somebody who “only” has a diploma in language teaching, no matter how fancy it is.
You get what you pay for
A couple of weeks ago I was looking for some legal advice on the internet. I found a plethora of different articles and personal takes by different people on the topic and the one that stuck out to me the most was that of a man on the quora website, not because of the quality of his answer, but because of what he wrote under his name on quora; it read as a disclaimer and it represents exactly the way people think, it went something like: “the quality of the advice given by me on this website is proportional to how much you are paying me for it”. The quality of his answer was utter trash, guess why, because it was free.
Not everyone is so blatantly straightforward about their rate expectations, as a matter of fact, when confronted with the question of what kind of salary they’re looking for in job interviews, most people are either too shy to say how much they truly value their work and will meekly accept whatever rate they are offered as long as it allows them to at least get by on it, or will overcompensate and put a price tag on their work that is far higher than the going rate.
The latter group is not important because they are expected to overperform given how much they want to be paid, the former group is where most people fall into and it’s tricky because what motivation could they have to excel when they are being paid less than what they truly feel they deserve? But they should still be professional and deliver the same quality of work as the people being paid higher salaries, after all, they put their own price, right?
Not quite. Most people will match the amount of responsibility they are given with how much they’re being paid for shouldering said responsibility. In other words, how much effort they put into something will almost entirely depend on how much they are being paid vs how much they would like to be paid. Most people will not undertake a project that involves a greater amount of responsibility than the money they’re being paid for working on said project, but some people will because they want the money, out of these people there’ll be a very small percentage of individuals who are starting from the bottom and want to build a brand, they will attract potential customers with their low rates and high-quality service… so they can raise their rates later on when they’ve already become a respected name in their field.
Same teacher, same course:
If you go low-cost teacher after low-cost teacher, you will eventually find one that is efficient at a bargain price, only to see them raise their rates later on and then back to hunting for an efficient and affordable teacher. This is a losing battle, not only will you spend a lot of money going through bad teachers just to find one that is good, but your learning will also take a tremendous toll, imagine paying to be taught something that is wrong… without knowing that what you’re being taught is wrong.
Nobody works for free, nobody wants to work for low wages, and everybody wants to be paid more. If we look at it from an statistical point of view, the chances of finding an efficient teacher for $10 or less are slim at best, and even if you do happen to find such a teacher, their current rates will not last long.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest paying private industry in the U.S. is leisure and hospitality with an average hourly wage of $14.08 measured in December, 2014.
This means that out of 13 different private industries (the public sector average wages are higher), the lowest paying one was still higher than $10. Do you think that a person who’s being paid less than the lowest paying industry will make a good educator? If they’ve set their mind on creating a name long term, then maybe, but probably they only want to make a quick buck. It takes an extremely professional person to excel at a job they are being paid little for, most people act professionally only because they are being paid enough for them to and they would be fired if they didn’t.
Bottom line is, price cannot be your main criterion, your main criterion should be quality. Once you have a bunch of quality teachers to choose from you can start filtering them based on other criteria like price, but if you want the best, you have to pay. If you only need conversation practice, then obviously you won’t need to pay as much, but still the quality of the conversation will be determined by how much you are paying: you shouldn’t expect a high-educational-level conversation for $5 as most highly educated people will have better things to do than talking to a random stranger for $5. In other words, you need to be looking for the best value, not the lowest price.
If all you need is conversation practice, check out my article series on finding a language exchange partner.
In conclusion, when you cheap out, you are not going to get the best, maybe not even the adequate, you are going to get what most people would give you for the amount you are paying, probably what you would give to a person paying that much yourself.
Remember that learning is a buildup process that doesn’t happen overnight, for this reason you don’t need to be taking several lessons a week, depending on your schedule, your study plan, and your learning rate you will need somewhere between 3 and 1, yes 1 is enough depending on the aforementioned reasons. So don’t go thinking that you will need to remortgage your home to afford language lessons, be a methodical learner and you won’t need many lessons at all.
What to realistically expect from your teachers
It’s important to have realistic expectations about what teachers can do for you. Remember that no matter how much you’re paying, no teacher is going to give you a magic bullet for learning languages in record time, so you need to judge a teacher effectiveness based on how much what you are being taught is helping you progress, not on how much you’re progressing alone because this also depends on you.
Use the following general guidelines to measure the effectiveness of your teacher, remember that your circumstances are always going to be unique, these guidelines are not a definite measurement of a teacher effectiveness, you will need to also ponder your own experience with your teacher to determine if you are a good fit or not.
What a (good) professional teacher should do for you in your first and following lessons:
- Create a lesson plan: watch out for cookie-cutter lesson plans. A done-for-you lesson plan must focus on your shortcomings.
- Listen to you: if you tell your teacher you don’t need to study something you’re absolutely sure you already know and they insist on it (as in you being an advanced Spanish learner and your teacher insists on reviewing the Spanish past tense), you two are probably not a good fit. Your teacher not listening to you will derive in you spending more time and money, while taking the corresponding emotional toll from getting frustrated.
- Give you homework: unless you’ve asked your teacher otherwise (you shouldn’t), a good teacher will always supplement their lessons with homework.
You need that knowledge to stick in your head, practical knowledge is more important than theoretical knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, by “homework” I don’t necessarily mean sitting on your couch for hours on end doing countless sets of wrist-numbing grammar drills. A homework can be anything that you do out of class time that helps you reinforce and review what you’ve already learned as well as set the foundation for more difficult upcoming lessons.
- Track your progress: no matter how many students a teacher has, they must keep track of every student’s progress and provide appropriate feedback. Your teacher should set aside a couple of minutes every few lessons to give you an overview of your progress. If you can’t track your progress, then you don’t know how close you’re getting to your goal.
- Explain complex concepts in layman’s terms: this is arguably the most important factor in determining whether you and your teacher are a good fit. You have to make sure that your teacher’s explanations make sense to you; if they don’t, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re teacher is bad at teaching, but it undoubtedly means that you two are not a good fit and you are better off looking for another teacher.
What a (good) amateur teacher should do for you in your first and following lessons:
Being a professional teacher carries a great deal of responsibilities (not only are you being given the knowledge you are paying for but you are also being given a customized learning experience) which are accordingly monetarily compensated.
On the other hand, amateur tutors are expected to provide feedback only, rather than guidance and feedback. For this reason, amateur tutors will offer their services for a cheaper hourly rate than their professional counterparts. It is for this same reason why it is you who has to organize the lesson to go in the direction that you want; it will be very hard for an amateur tutor to determine what your sticking points are, let alone come up with a lesson plan to overcome them, and you shouldn’t expect them to. That said, a good amateur tutor will be able to do two things for you (note that a good professional teacher can also do these):
- Help you with your pronunciation and listening comprehension: your teacher should be able to come up with drills and exercises that will help you in these areas on the fly. They should talk at a pace which is challenging but not frustrating, and they should provide immediate transcription for parts of the conversation you don’t understand.
- Help you further the linguistic association process: a sentence is the most basic grammatical construction that consists of a verb and a predicate and that makes sense. At the same time, words are the most basic unit in a sentence; words are arranged in such a way as to create a sentence. Different arrangements can be made depending on context, mood of the speaker, etc., such arrangements are governed by grammatical conventions. This means that you can say the same thing in different ways, that is, you can create different sentences that convey the exact same meaning without breaking grammar rules.
You have to ask your teacher to help you think outside the textbook, always ask your teacher “in what other way can I say this?” “Is there another way to say this”? “How would you say the same in a more formal/informal/professional/etc. way”? This will help your brain associate different patterns and grammatical constructions and tie them to the same meaning. So if you wanted to know how to say “I’m wearing a T-shirt” in a different way, your teacher should be able to tell you “oh, you can say ‘I have a T-shirt on’”.
These two points are crucial to fluency and any semi-educated native speaker will be able to help you with them, regardless, same rules apply: you still want your tutor to be experienced and with some sort of formal education, in that order.
As a side note, if you are learning languages on a budget, I suggest that you only pay for a teacher (professional or amateur) if you haven’t been able to find a native language-exchange partner.
Making the most out of your lessons
Before your lesson:
When you show up for class, you should not only show your teacher you’ve studied since the last lesson, you should also show your teacher that you’ve pin-pointed some of your stumbling blocks.
Despite what you may think, teachers often see themselves in their students, and so it’s frustrating for them if their students are completely dependent on their feedback and become stagnant if they are not there for them.
If you show your teacher you take responsibility for your learning, you will make them more committed to helping you and more emphatic to your frustrations and general emotions, but more importantly, by quickly identifying the obstacles in the way of your progress, you will make the most out of your lesson and you won’t waste time trying to figure out what is hindering your learning-process during class time.
For example, let’s say you are learning Spanish and you can’t seem to grasp the subjunctive mood, instead of saying to your teacher “I don’t understand the subjunctive mood” ask yourself “what is it I truly don’t understand about it?” and then formulate the questions that will point directly to what is hindering your learning.
When you ask a general question (I don’t understand the subjunctive), you will receive a general overview of the topic as an answer and waste precious time (and money) figuring out, along with your teacher, what to focus on during class.
To get the right answers you need to ask the right questions:
- In order to ask the right questions you need to have a clear idea of what your lesson is going to be about. Don’t show up for your lesson expecting your teacher to be able to read your mind.
- Prior to your lesson, come up with questions about what you don’t understand and try to answer them yourself, the point of this is not necessarily to find an answer to your questions (if you do, then all the better), but to really pin-point what your stumbling blocks are, this will help you create a roadmap for your lesson that will tackle exactly what you need to tackle to move forward towards fluency.
During your lesson:
If you want to make the most out of your lesson time, don’t try to immediately understand 100% percent of what your teacher is telling you; learning takes time and if you try to make sense out of everything during the lesson then you are bound to waste a lot of time. What you should do instead is record your lesson using a cellphone, and listen to it repeatedly after your lesson time is over.
During your lesson, you shouldn’t waste time taking random notes because that’s what you are recording the lesson for, you should only write down your “aha moments”, for example, if your teacher is explaining something to you and that reminded you of something different but related, write it down, at worst, nothing will come from it, but it may very well be the missing piece of the puzzle your brain needs to finally make sense out of something you’ve been struggling to understand. Maybe you heard the same syntax your teacher used during your conversation previously in a movie, write that down so you can go back to your audio recording and said movie back and forth to associate both together and make sense of them. Trust me, these “aha moments” are a stroke of genius that will fade away as quickly as they hit you, so write them down.
I already told you this but I need to stress it further because of its importance: consider asking your teacher for different ways to say the same thing, for example if you need to ask somebody to help you your choice of words will depend on context: “I will require of your expertise on this”, “I need your help on this”, “could you give me a hand on this?”, all mean the same, but which one you choose will depend on context. Context-dependent choice of words is crucial if you don’t want to sound stiff or unnatural.
After your lesson:
The way I review and ingrain the knowledge in the recording starts by trying to use that information as if I had already mastered it and then putting it in my own words in a Microsoft Word document, for example, if you’re taught how to construct a sentence using the German word for “can” (as in being able to), the best way to internalize that knowledge is by coming up with sentences using that construction: “I cannot speak German” (true for me), “I can sing well” (not true for me), then if you want to say “I could take a vacation but I like my job” but don’t know how to say “could” there you have something to ask your teacher during your next lesson, write that down.
Next, I will write down the “rules” regarding that which I’m reviewing using my own words. This is extremely important, you don’t want to copy and paste somebody else’s explanation, you can use somebody else’s explanation to further understand the concept you’re studying but most of your review document should consist of your own explanations, to put it in other words, your review document should be a record of your language journey in your own words, the way you understand the language to work, so you can later go back to it and say “oh, yes, I remember I thought X when I wrote down Y, it all makes sense now”.
Don’t worry about using fancy linguistic jargon, if that’s not how you understand a language, it will actually be counterproductive. For example, if you don’t know what a dependent clause is, don’t write down “there are different kinds of dependent clauses, such as adverb clauses and adjective clauses” this won’t make sense to you when you go back to review your notes later on, and it probably won’t make sense as you are writing it either, instead write something like “some sentences can’t stand alone and need something else to complete their intended meaning, some of these sentences start with adverbs or adjectives”. Even though this is not grammatically correct (an actual sentence can always stand alone), if this is how you understand it, it’s totally fine. As you get more acquainted with your target language and grammar rules in general, you can “fix” these things, don’t try to make it perfect right away.
I make sure to go through my review notes with my teacher or one of my language-exchange friends later so they are filtered through the eyes and knowledge of a native.
Finally, if necessary, I will create Anki cards with specific examples or grammar notes to review regularly. Don’t make Anki cards just for the sake of it, make good use of your time, and while you can always delete them later, nobody is going to give you back the time you wasted on useless Anki cards (both on reviewing and creating them).
The entire review process looks like this:
- Record the lesson.
- Write down your “aha moments” during the lesson. Don’t take notes.
- Go through the recording without stopping it one time and write down any and all questions that pop up.
- Address and try to find an answer to every question using previous knowledge, your recording, the internet, or any tool at your disposal. If there are questions for which you can’t find a satisfying answer, put a question mark beside them and ask them to your teacher next time you meet.
- Open up a Microsoft Word document and with the help of the recording, write down what you learned during the lesson while creating sentences using words or syntax you were introduced to during the lesson.
- Have a native review those notes.
- Do not take lessons with new teachers, let somebody else risk their money and time.
- Always use numbers-based filtering criteria for choosing what teachers’ you take lessons with, don’t make it an emotional decision by watching teachers’ videos and reading their intros. Only after you’ve sifted through all the average teachers and have selected a handful of potential teachers should you watch their videos and read their bios.
- As always, common sense rules, if you don’t feel like you’re progressing as much as it can be realistically expected, move on and look for another teacher.
- Picking up on that, be realistic. No matter how many lessons you’re taking, you’re not going to go from complete beginner to fluent in a matter of months, despite what you may have heard.
- Ask your teacher for different ways to say the same thing.
- Practice is more important than theory, always do your homework.
- Teachers can’t read your mind, communicate with them and be specific about what you want or need. For example, some teachers won’t interrupt you while you are talking to correct your pronunciation, if this is something you need, make sure to inform your teacher about special requirements.
- Take the time to ask yourself what it is that you truly don’t understand, so you can formulate specific questions, not general ones.
[i] Kain, John F. 1998. “The impact of individual teachers and peers on individual student achievement.” https://www.utdallas.edu/research/tsp-erc/working-papers.html
[ii] Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, Jacob L. Vigdor. 2007. How and Why do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?
[iii] Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger. 2006. Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job.