What do we even mean when we say “high-impact tutoring?” As schools grapple with so many of the effects of unfinished learning, tutoring has emerged as a potential approach for addressing students’ educational needs.
“High-impact tutoring” is defined by the National Student Support Accelerator as a form of teaching 1:1 or in a small group toward a very specific goal. It is a form of tutoring that leads to substantial learning gains for students by supplementing, but not replacing, students’ classroom experiences and it’s intended to respond to individual students’ needs by complementing what they’re learning in the classroom.
High-impact tutoring is not just homework help, nor is it just test prep, so there is key differentiation between it and what most people conceptualize “tutoring” to be. It’s an intentional, multifaceted program that’s geared toward accelerating student learning. High-impact tutoring is not intended to solely focus on remedial skills; it’s about addressing the skills that are necessary for the student to make progress and advance to those instructional next steps.
How can schools determine if they’re implementing high-impact tutoring? Ask these questions:
1. How frequent are the sessions? According to current research, the most effective tutoring interventions actually involve three or more sessions per week, with sessions that last about 30 to 60 minutes per day. And the research also shows that once-a-week tutoring is not really enough to generate any meaningful gains when it comes to acceleration. Additionally, most of the effective tutoring lasts for at least 10 weeks, with some lasting across the entire school year. That said, elementary students might benefit from shorter but more frequent sessions, for example, 20-minute sessions five times a week.
2. Are the sessions integrated into the school day? When it comes to scheduling, the tutoring interventions that are conducted during the school day tend to result in greater learning gains than the ones that are scheduled after school or even during the summer. In a recent meta analysis of tutoring studies, investigators found that the effects of programs conducted during the school day tend to have larger effects relative to those conducted after school.
Providing tutoring sessions during the school day or immediately after school increases the likelihood that students are able to attend, and also facilitates a much more academically focused culture. Providing tutoring during the school day eliminates additional barriers—like transportation—that could potentially hinder students from regularly participating in tutoring sessions.
3. What is the student-to-tutor ratio? Research shows that tutors can effectively instruct up to three or four students at a time, but that going beyond this number can really quickly become small group instruction, which is less personalized and also requires a lot more skill to execute well. While 1:1 tutoring is likely the most effective delivery method, the cost can be prohibitive for schools; but even a 1:3 or 1:4 delivery model has a large positive effect on student learning outcomes across a wide array of subjects.