Number one for English language teachers

One-to-one: Methodology - Advantages and disadvantages for students

Type: Teaching notes

An outline of the advantages and disadvantages of one-to-one teaching for students

Advantages

  • Students have the constant attention of the teacher so they can listen to and speak more English than they might in a group situation.
  • Students can contribute to classes more and feel part of the learning process by bringing material like books, songs, articles from local newspapers to class.
  • Their strengths and weaknesses are addressed more consistently and fully without the competition of other students for the teacher’s time.
  • They can become better learners through learner training with their teacher. 
  • There are less time constraints so they can go at their own pace and not feel pressured by the progress of other students.
  • According to the Natural Method, as suggested by Stephen Krashen, learners acquire language best through the modified input of the teacher. This means that the teacher adapts their language to the level of the student and in one-to-one classes the amount and type of input can be maximised by the teacher to benefit the student.

Disadvantages

  • There is a similar potential for exhaustion as they too can be in constant interaction in an unnatural way with the teacher.
  • It can be difficult to measure progress without other students to compare with and the possible lack of a syllabus.
  • There can be a lack of individual study time. They might not have the same “sink in time” as they would have in a group. This can go against the acquisition of language, especially if teachers don’t give enough restricted practise (Scrivener, 1987) of new language and students don’t absorb the language as effectively as they would if they had more time to reflect and process input in a class where the teacher might be more comfortable with silent periods.
  • The lesson format can become monotonous if a teacher lacks the confidence to experiment with change of pace and type of activity. They might assume a student would not be open to activities such as dictation, songs, moving around the class, chants, drilling, etc.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Hi JA,

    Thanks for the feedback and nice to hear your views. I think what Lindsey and Nicola meant by 'unnatural' is the situation of the student constantly being assessed and having his/her errors highlighted and therefore putting him/her under pressure and creating anxiety about making mistakes, rather than being able to converse in a more natural, conversational manner.

    Certainly, as you say a tailored syllabus is a huge advantage for one-to-one students. The disadvantages mentioned in this article don't necessarily assume a lack of experience or ability on a teacher's part. I believe the intention is more to prepare teachers for the possible difficulties that may arise.

    Lovely to hear that you teach one-to-one business via e-learning. What techniques do you use in place of being able to implement a game of musical chairs?

    Best wishes,
    The onestopenglish team

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  • Couldn't agree more with Linda. I also don't know what could be more natural than one-to-one and therefore disagree with your statement that the constant interaction would be in an unnatural way. This observation is because the problem with this article regarding the disadvantages is that you are approaching this from the standpoint that the teacher is possibly not up to one-to-one teaching. If you assume on the advantages side the teacher knows what he/she is doing your disadvantages side should be argued from the same standpoint, otherwise it is not a proper debate of the subject. Also a one-to-one student could not have a better syllabus. It is tailored to them. A big p.s, as I am teaching one-to-one business via E-learning I can't really get them moving around the class and playing musical chairs now, can I? Guess I'm doing something else.

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  • I don't agree with the statement regarding a difficulty to measure progress. In a one-to-one class progress is measured according to the individual objectives of the learner. This is difficult to do in a group situation.

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