I want to start by sharing my teaching philosophy: I believe in teaching in a way that is primarily student-centered. That is, I prefer to do less talking to give the student(s) more time to practice working on math problems, which I believe is the best way for them to build conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. Conversely, the more modeling I do for the student(s), I feel that they risk tricking themselves into thinking they understand the mathematics, which is detrimental to their learning.
Now on to the main point: I work for an online tutoring company that offers instant tutoring sessions where I meet with students "on the spot" (there is no ongoing relationship between me and the tutee). A lot of my tutoring experience has come from hosting these types of sessions, mainly because it fits better into my daily schedule and it's less time-consuming than applying for tutoring opportunities that are more competitive. During instant tutoring sessions, I try to stick to my teaching philosophy as described above, but sometimes doing so does not work out. Practically all students ask for Homework Help during an instant tutoring session. Most students begin by saying something along the lines of "How would you solve this problem?" (which to me is like saying "What is the answer to this question?"). My response is usually "Let me show you a similar example" and I will change the numbers around so I can model the steps that the student must take, or I will use the Socratic Method to determine what they are specifically having trouble understanding and ask probing questions to help them understand how to at least start the solution to the math problem.
I've always viewed Homework Help as the lowest form of tutoring because from my experience, the student is usually focused on getting it done rather than learning. I still try to make these situations work because I feel guilty if I tell the student that I can't help them, and I don't want them to give me a bad rating either. Unfortunately, when I agree to help the student with their homework while sticking to my teaching philosophy (that is, making it clear that I won't just give them the answer), sometimes the student abruptly leaves the online session. Needless to say, it's frustrating to do the right thing from an educational standpoint and essentially get the door slammed in my face.
(Side note: the Covid-19 pandemic may also have an affect on this behavior since students are tired of staring at a computer screen all day, but I am ignoring that here. I have observed this behavior even before the pandemic started.)
Thankfully, it's not always this bad. During a recent instant tutoring session, one student asked "Can we work on this problem together?" (it was on graphing a rational function). I liked hearing this because the student understood that my responsibility as the tutor was to provide guidance, not answers. As the student worked through the problem, the student asked good questions when he was unsure how to proceed, such as "Is the vertical asymptote where the function is undefined?". This behavior is more desirable because the student was showing effort instead of trying to get me to say the answer. Unfortunately, not all students are like this one when it comes to instant tutoring.
Recently, I began to realize that perhaps instant tutoring is meant to allow students to get a quick answer to their HW. I recently came across this article where it is described that a student's grade improved from (presumably) one instant tutoring session. To me, it sounds like the tutor is the one who earned the improved grade! I don't believe that as the tutor, I should be doing the student's work because it's their responsibility. Otherwise, how else will they learn?
My question is: What is the true purpose of instant tutoring? Is it meant to be a Q and A where the tutor just gives the answer? Or should I stick to my teaching philosophy during instant tutoring sessions and focus on improving how I interact with students?