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Beyond homework: Using Paper™ to improve student-centered learning

In this guest blog post, Paper™ tutor Niya explores how the Paper Method pushes beyond easy answers to help students build confidence for life.

When people think about tutoring, they often think of simple homework help. But even though helping students with homework is certainly a part of what tutors do at Paper, the Paper Method we use is a unique process that transcends just homework help. 

From start to finish, Paper’s tutors work with students using a unique strategy that enables them to gain confidence and to grow as learners.

Changing attitudes toward learning

One part of the Paper Method includes creating a supportive learning environment that enables students to think differently and more positively about learning. There are many different things tutors do to encourage this attitude.

Creating a positive environment right away

First, all of our tutors strive to set up a positive and encouraging atmosphere the minute students enter the virtual classroom. Some key ways tutors achieve this are by:

  • Engaging quickly with students.
  • Addressing students by name.
  • Ensuring the student feels immediately comfortable by using a positive tone or emojis (e.g., “Hi, [student name]! How are you today? 🙂”).

Assuaging negative attitudes

Tutors also are quick to assuage any negative or self-deprecating attitudes from students who feel discouraged about their schoolwork. For instance, when a student says something along the lines of, “I don’t know how to do this,” the tutor may respond with something like:

  • “That’s OK! We’ll work through the problem together and can take things one step at a time.”
  • “Wow, this is tricky! That’s OK, though. We will tackle this problem together!”

By acknowledging that the question is difficult and sharing that they will work through it collaboratively, tutors acknowledge students' feelings and create an encouraging environment where the student can succeed. No matter what the student needs, tutors ensure they create an atmosphere that will encourage the student to learn and be successful.

Giving praise

Additionally, once students arrive at the correct answer or show improvement in their work, tutors celebrate their accomplishments—again encouraging students to have a different attitude toward learning. 

For example, when students make good progress on a complicated math problem, a tutor may encourage them by saying something like:

  • “Awesome job so far!”
  • “You’re on the right track!”
  • “You got it! Amazing job working through that difficult problem!” 

These types of remarks make students feel good about the learning process and reward them for doing the work on their own. 

Creating this atmosphere is beneficial not only for finishing homework, but also for thinking about learning, school, and homework more positively. Often, the classroom can be busy or students may be quiet or shy. This can create a negative experience around school and learning. However, by engaging with every student on the platform in this manner, Paper’s tutors can contribute to shifting attitudes surrounding learning.

The Paper Method cultivates confidence

On top of creating a positive learning environment, Paper’s tutors strive to give students the tools and abilities to figure out problems on their own, and they never give direct answers. Tutors do this by assessing prior knowledge about the subject, meeting students where they are, and providing examples and clarifications as needed.

Assessing prior knowledge

Some of the first things a Paper tutor may ask their student are:

  • “What do you know so far about this topic?”
  • “Can you take me through how you got this answer?”
  • “What have you learned about this in class?”

By asking these questions, tutors ensure there is a clear connection between the classroom and their homework—enabling the students to make connections they can bring back to the classroom with them.

Meeting students where they are

Further, by asking these questions, tutors also can meet students where they are. 

Some students might know all but one step of a difficult math equation, and others may not know where to start when solving it. Regardless of where students are in their learning, tutors work with them by asking questions and providing guidance to help them arrive at the correct answer themselves.

For instance, if a student is writing a thesis for an essay but is unsure of where to start, the tutor may ask questions like: 

  • “What have you learned about writing a thesis in class?”
  • “What do you think the role of a thesis is in an essay?”

By doing this, tutors don’t tell students what a thesis is, but rather encourage them to formulate their own definition. In this way, tutors enable students to come to their own answers—enhancing their understanding of the topic in general.

Examples and clarifications

If a student continues to struggle, tutors will often give them helpful examples. With a math problem, this might look like providing a similar equation for students to work through and then prompting them to apply those same steps to the more difficult question. In this way, tutors give students the tools they need to complete homework on their own and succeed.

Paper is unique because it’s more than just a homework service. By giving students the tools they need to arrive at an answer—without giving away the answers themselves—tutors enable students to take those tools back to the classroom. The next time the student has to write a thesis for an essay or provide the answer to a similar math equation, they have the tools and the confidence to do so. They’ve done this work before, supported along the way by a personal cheerleader: their tutor.

A parting note

Although Paper tutors don’t do the work of teachers, they can still help students think differently about school and gain confidence in their learning abilities—which is directly transferable to the classroom.

By offering instruction and guidance that aligns with the Paper Method, our tutors build confidence and positive attitudes in young learners that they can take back to the classroom. As students continue to visit the Paper platform, our tutors work hard to enable them to not only excel with their homework, but also to become stronger students overall.


Niya, Paper Tutor

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