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What is The Difference Between Educational Therapy & Tutoring?

We are frequently asked questions regarding the difference between educational therapy and tutoring. This is a hugely important topic for us. We are going to explain the differences between the two, how the two can work in together, and how sometimes tutoring can work against the goals of educational therapy.

What is the difference between educational therapy and tutoring? We get asked this question all of the time. We are happy to clarify this mystery for you. We know there is confusion about this so we have broken the topic down into seven main points of comparison.

The definition of educational therapy and the definition of tutoring:

Educational therapy is about strategy. It is about building a toolbox of strategies, how you approach learning, and the classroom environment. Educational therapy is much broader than tutoring. An educational therapist is a case manager for the whole team which includes the child, parent, teacher, tutors, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. An educational therapist is interested in supporting the whole child. Educational therapy is usually long-term.

A common misconception is that educational therapy is just for students with a learning disability but that is not true. Students go to an educational therapist for a variety of reasons–anywhere from test anxiety to a desire to learn how to be a more efficient student.

On the other hand, when it comes to tutoring it is really all about tactics rather than strategy. Tutoring is short term. It is about content and classroom curriculum. Tutors teach specific subject matters. Usually, a tutor is not going to communicate with the teacher or be a case manager on behalf of the student or the family. Tutoring is a shorter term solution. While an educational therapist is an expert on learning, a tutor should be an expert in their subject area.

There is a slight overlap between educational therapy and tutoring. Sometimes an educational therapist has to cover a content area in order to teach a strategy. Educational therapy definitely does support classroom learning and content areas but has a much wider, more global view on how strategies can get used over the long term. When considering the difference between educational therapy and tutoring just remember that tutoring is very focused and educational therapy is global.

Education of educational therapists versus a tutor:

An educational therapist is highly trained usually with a masters degree in special education or educational psychology.

As for tutors, they do not have to have formal training. They could be people who are gifted in a content area or simply may have taken the class your child is taking. Tutors may also be teachers within your local area.

Goals of educational therapy versus tutoring:

The primary goal of educational therapy is to foster self-confident, independent learners who understand their learning profiles and can advocate for themselves.

We strive towards teaching independence and autonomy in learning, school, and life for your child .

Meanwhile, the goal for tutoring is to give support in a subject area.

How and why the relationship ends with an educational therapist versus with a tutor:

An educational therapist is constantly working themselves out of a job. We terminate a relationship with the child when we see that the child is completing work independently and that the student not only knows the strategies but is able to select which strategy to apply in a variety of different situations.

This happens slowly but eventually, the student is seamlessly self-selecting how to approach a task and completing successfully without any intervention. We tend to “push kids out” of educational therapy. The goal is to no longer need us!

For tutoring, on the other hand, it ends when the student gets over a hump in the class or at the end of a school year. The student is now understanding the concept or whatever it is they were struggling in that class.

Tutoring can end for the summer but educational therapy does not. Educational therapy can continue after the school year ends or during school breaks.

The reason we work with students year round is because it is a RELIEF to work on skills and strategies without the pressure of school simultaneously. We don’t want to lose momentum and it is a great way to preview the following school year and/or what is coming up in the near future.

How growth is measured differently by an educational therapist or a tutor:

In educational therapy, growth is measured by psycho-educational goals that are achieved. As an example, let’s say we have a student, named Sarah, who struggles in math. A goal for this student that we might give is, “Sarah will benefit by increasing her ability to automate her math facts through songs, skip counting, and long-term rehearsal.” We know Sarah has achieved this goal once she can successfully skip count her numbers and be able to fluidly recall math facts on demand using her strategies. It’s not just about grades. It’s about a students growth in an area of previous struggle. Their accomplishments go from being dependent on outside support to being able to tackle a similar task at a later date without the support.

Using an analogy of a bike, when you first begin learning to ride a bike you have training wheels. Once you have mastered how to ride the bike you take the training wheels off. Our goal is to get our students to ride two-wheelers.

The measurement for tutoring is truly just grades.

The helpfulness and helplessness of tutoring:

Educational therapy and tutoring can actually work together with each other with the educational therapist being the leader of the team and the tutor supporting learning by using the strategies that the educational therapist is providing to the student.

This is when tutoring is very helpful. It is supporting the mission of independence and autonomy. Whether or not we would make the recommendation for tutoring partially depends on how far behind the student is.

We are very careful about tutoring because it has the potential of becoming the reason that students learn how to be a little helpless. In tutoring, learned helplessness can arise in a variety of ways. One way is that the child learns to lean on someone else to do something for them because either they just don’t want to do it or because it is too hard. In the case of the student who struggles in math, for example, learned helplessness is when he/she waits for the tutor to come to start an assignment or goes back to school the next day with question marks on all of the problems without even trying to do it on their own.

How to determine whether your child needs an ed therapist or a tutor:

Overall, educational therapy covers academic, non-academic, and socioemotional parts of learning. This includes organization, problem-solving, attention, self-esteem, metacognition, self-advocacy, and motivation. It also addresses the emotions and the behaviors surrounding learning.

Tutoring is much more appropriate when your child does not understand a specific concept or subject area. Your child likely has strategies in place for how to find the answers but still is not quite able to put the pieces together on their own. We frequently make the recommendation for tutors because we see its benefit! It is something that works together with what we do. It certainly does not run the whole spectrum of what educational therapy offers.

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