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One-on-one Tutoring: The Science Behind The Method

One of the aspects of Students4Students that makes it so strong is its ability to offer one-on-one tutoring sessions for students. Group tutoring sessions faded into educational history long ago as students with private tutors started to leap ahead academically. From personal experience, working with students in both group and private sessions, I can say that the cognitive differences between these two types of tutoring systems are amazing. But what is it that one-on-one tutoring sessions so effective? More importantly, is there any evidence to back up the claim that private tutoring is as effective as many seem to think?

Psychologists and educational institutions have been running experiments to determine just how effective different tutoring methods are. In their 1982 experiment, Cohen, Kulik, and Kulik reported that students receiving one-on-one tutoring outperformed their classmates by about 0.40. The literature suggests that there is no doubt as to the benefit of one-on-one tutoring. However, determining what makes private tutoring so successful is a much more difficult matter. Clearly many factors are at play when considering the success of these sessions, such as the student, the tutor, the institution, and resources available.

Despite our inability to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes private tutoring so powerful, it is clear that the personalised element is a major factor in its success. In classrooms, students can get left behind as a teacher must move on with the curriculum. Conversely, a student might be bored by the slow pace of the material and cease to pay attention, eventually also falling behind. Teachers are on strict time schedules and whatever pace a teacher moves at is unlikely to march the needs of every single student. Private tutoring, on the other hand, gives the students a chance to express what kind of pacing he or she needs and the tutor can easily personalise.

One of the most effective methods utilised in this type of tutoring is called 'hinting'. Essentially this is a tactic that gives the students a trigger with which they can recall information they already know. By questioning in a variety of ways a tutor gives their pupil many chances to come up with the answer on their own which is often considered on of the best ways to truly retain information.


Although we have yet to prove what exactly makes one-on-one tutoring so effective, it is clear that this is the most efficient type of tutoring. Unfortunately, the biggest downside to one-on-one tutoring is its high cost. Students from lower income families, who would often benefit most from private tutoring, can rarely afford it. Luckily, with groups like Students4Students, more and more pupils will the opportunity to experience the benefits of this type of tutoring.

Bibliography & Further Reading Suggestions:

Hume, Gregory, et al "Hinting as a tactic in One-on-One tutoring" Journal of the learning sciences (1996)

Juel, Connie "What Makes Literacy Tutoring Effective?" Reading Research Quarterly (1996)