During tutoring, errors happen all the time and it is critical for tutors to address errors that arise in an appropriate manner. It is always important to point out errors, but to do so in a positive way. Try not to say, “No” or “You’re wrong.” Instead, let them know that they have made an error and encourage them to find out where that error is. If they can self-correct then let them know that they did a good job. If they can’t find the error, make sure to provide enough clues until they discover the errors themselves and reward them for doing so.
Once they have discovered the error that occurred, talk about why they made the mistake and how to avoid it in the future. By discussing each error, students recognize the faulty logic in their thinking and eventually develop much more sophistication when it comes to self-correction. This technique not only helps in the learning process, but gives students more confident in their abilities, because even when they make an error, they still experience success when they correct the error.
In some cases a student may just not understand the question and after providing clues and ample time for the student to self correct, it may be necessary to demonstrate the activity to the student. Be thorough in your explanation of the procedures involved in solving the problem and check for understanding constantly. When you are sure the student grasps how to attack the problem then give them the opportunity to answer a similar question so that they can demonstrate to you that they know how to answer the question.
* All information from this blog post comes from Keith Topping’s article, Tutoring. Educational Practices — Series 5.