Tutoring: Can It Be Scaled?
Research on the effectiveness of tutoring has long pointed to a promising method of boosting outcomes for struggling students, but one whose efficacy would be challenging to achieve at scale. To build upon successful models of individual or small-group instruction, you need to hire (or at least train) a lot of new personnel. Whatever the logistical challenges, however, the academic setbacks inflicted by the pandemic over multiple school years have led researchers to give tutoring a closer look in 2020.
In a working paper released this summer, University of Toronto economist Philip Oreopoulos examined evidence from nearly 100 randomized controlled trials of tutoring programs, detecting strongly positive results for academic performance in multiple subjects. Even more promising, the intervention worked — with occasionally eye-popping effect sizes — in multiple formats, even when conducted by tutors who weren’t professional educators. If paraprofessionals, trained volunteers, and even family members can deliver effective one-on-one instruction, there may be potential for the nationwide use of tutors to help students make up ground lost to COVID, as Brown professor Matt Kraft has proposed.