Number one for English language teachers

One-to-one methodology: Advantages and disadvantages for teachers

Level: Pre-intermediate Type: Teaching notes

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

Thinking about teaching one-to-one classes? This list of advantages and disadvantages from the perspective of the teacher might be useful to think about, when making the decision. It's also useful to be aware of the disadvantages, so you can think about how to tackle them, for better lessons for both yourself and your student.


  • Teaching is only one level – this means no mixed abilities or fast finishers to deal with.
  • Material can be supplied by the student. 
  • We as teachers can learn something too. Students can teach us about their interests, work and experiences.
  • We can select material we are sure will interest and motivate the student.
  • There are fewer time constraints. This means we can spend as long as necessary to address our student’s needs and explore areas of personal interest.


  • The teacher is always 'on'. One common comment is: 'When else would we spend ninety minutes talking constantly to one person?'
  • Teachers may find it difficult to take notes for correction without distracting the student.
  • There are a limited range of activities, which can be a bit monotonous for the teacher and student. In particular, there is no pair or group work.
  • We might feel bad about doing reading and writing. Teachers worry that students will see it as a 'waste of time'. 
  • There is an astonishing lack of materials, and teacher’s notes hardly ever take this situation into account.
  • Playing the role of counsellor can be stressful. Teachers might feel uncomfortable listening to the personal problems of their students.
  • The same window or wall to look at each day can be boring.
  • Student/teacher personality differences or opposing opinions can make life difficult, as teachers are afraid to respond to comments they strongly disagree with. 
  • Often schools don’t give a syllabus for one-to-one classes so it is more difficult to record and show progress to the student.

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Readers' comments (7)

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for your feedback and congratulations on finishing your DELTA Module 3. It's nice to hear some informed views on which books are currently being used by DELTA candidates. Interestingly, Ingrid was an author on our Open Mind series and a co-author on our Beyond series. She will no doubt be very pleased with your lovely feedback. Good luck with your exams and the rest of the course.

    Best regards,

    The onestopenglish team

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  • I just finished Module 3 of the Delta, and I focused on One-to-One. The information on this site was helpful, and Osbourne's book is pretty good. I found Wilberg's book dense and hard to get through, but once you understand his concepts, they are useful. However, I think the best book out there now is Ingrid Wisniewska's "Learning One-to-One". It's clear, great information, and the activities in the back are actually useful. She also includes ways to adapt coursebook for 121. HTH

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  • The dearth of one-to-one material is quite stunning. The OUP does a set of course books and material called Business one:one , which I've found quite useful, but it isn't widely available.
    What most teachers I know do is to spend a great deal of time, money and energy making one-one adaptations of standard course book materials. These are often prohibitively expensive, with a full set of books and audio/visual materials for one level sometimes costing around €200, which is a lot to pay when you can't use or have to adapt a lot of the material for one-one.

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  • Hi Anonymous :-)
    To answer your question, I don't have experience with Osborne's Teaching English One to One actually. I went and took a look though, it looks very useful! It was written in 2007 however. I wrote this article with Nicola Meldrum in 2004 based on some workshops we had done in 2003. At that time there was not a lot for one to one teaching and the Wilberg book was the only one we had seen. Since then I think there have been quite a few more books published, as well as more web material, blogs and so on. It's better now, but I'm happy people still find this article useful!

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  • Hi, you mention Peter Wilberg's One-to-One: A Teacher's Handbook, I was just wondering if you had any experience with Priscilla Osborne's: Teaching English One to One as it too came up in my search for sources? Many thanks!

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  • Some very good points here, but why is there so little material for one to one teaching? There's a gap in the market here........

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  • I was meant to fill in 4 stars . Sorry!

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