There’s no shortage of tutoring and coaching services for kids in Dubai, so when a new venue opens, it needs to have an innovative approach to make an impact. Step forward the new Tutoring Center in Knowledge Village, which opened its doors in late 2011. Part of a hugely successful US franchise, it’s the brainchild of Dr Edward S Thalheimer, explains centre director Joanna Lynch.
‘Dr Thalheimer’s background was actually as a psychologist who specialized in building attention spans,’ she says. ‘He then moved into education to become the head of a private school in California in the late ’80s. The cohort of students were very behind in their studies, and he needed to find a system that would rapidly increase both their academic skills and attention spans. Over the course of four years, he tested out different systems and ended up with the ‘rotational approach to learning’.
Suitable for children from four years old, all the way up to college-age students, the rotational approach sees pupils visit the centre between two or three times a week for an individualized programme of learning that is suited exactly to their needs. Enrollment begins with an initial diagnostic assessment, which allows the centre’s staff to personalize a programme that is tailored to each child’s needs, pinpointing the areas of their learning that need the most focus. ‘This is free of charge to any family that would like their child assessed,’ says Joanna. ‘Then, if they’re interested to enter into the programme, we work with the parents to determine what programme they’d like to see their child be involved in – hopefully this will be the area where the child requires the most help.’ New students are also given two free tutoring sessions before they begin the programme, to ensure that parents are investing in something that both their child and themselves will be able to commit to.
As part of the rotational approach, the centre then puts together a three-step programme to match with the three learning stations at the centre, where kids study for intervals of 30 minutes, 15 minutes and 15 minutes. After 40 hours of tutoring, students are given a second assessment, and the Tutoring Center guarantees that each pupil will increase their grade by one level within this time.
Learning at the centre is based upon positive reinforcement in a fun and informative environment, says Nadia Traya, head instructor at the centre. ‘Kids are very receptive to the programme, and for some, it’s just about getting something positive back that can make a real difference to both their confidence and learning, which is what we really try to work on here.’
‘It’s the skills gaps that we are trying to build upon, rather than working on a particular curriculum,’ adds Joanna. To begin with, children are asked to bring along their text books, so the centre works with them on what they will be learning in class. ‘If they’ve already learned it once, when they go to school they’re more receptive to learning in the classroom. For children who wouldn’t normally raise their hand in class, it gives them that confidence to give it a go – and that can make a huge difference. In the long term, we’re building their confidence, concentration and overall focus. When they’re not having to spend so much time at school working on a particular subject that they find difficult, we’ve seen that their grades tend to improve across the board.’
‘For a lot of the children, we work with, the problem isn’t necessarily about positive achievement,’ says Nadia. ‘They can get through things such as maths equations easily, but when they sit down in class they’re not achieving their full potential, as they are unable to focus properly. In our environment at the centre, there isn’t the competitiveness of a classroom environment, or the stress of worrying that they’re learning at the right level – they all go at their own pace.’
Part of the ethos at the centre also sees children learning about being positive role models, and to be aware of the influence that they exert on their peers. And while the centre has only been open a few months, staff are already getting positive feedback from parents. ‘A mother came to us to say “already the teachers have started to praise my five-year-old son who couldn’t sit still in class, and he’s now paying attention and asking questions after just two weeks”,’ recalls Joanna. ‘So it’s very exciting to see that we can help these children and make a difference to their learning.’
To find out more about the Tutoring Center, visit www.tutoringcenter.com or call 800 TUTOR (88867).