One-to-one teaching – how effective and is it the best solution?

What is one-to-one tutoring? One way of defining this rather widespread phenomenon is as a focused teaching session whereby a student is tutored by a teacher in the absence of other students. In the way it is performed in schools, particularly in the primary sector, the teaching can be by a teaching assistant and not a fully qualified teacher. For older pupils of secondary school age, who are studying for GCSE and A-level, it is usually performed by a qualified teacher.  At this age, it is sometimes used to help weaker students to catch up or to reinforce their confidence in a subject in which they are weak. However, at this age, most of the one-to-one that takes place is targeted at boosting examination grades in certain specific subjects and most of it is paid for by parents who resort to hiring a private tutor and the private tuition is delivered outside the school.

How is one-to-one tutoring provided? In the late nineteen nineties, the then Labour government introduced one-to-one teaching in primary schools to boost numeracy and literacy. It is usually delivered by either a qualified teacher or a teaching assistant, who provides teaching support to an individual subject for a set time. Tutoring has existed for centuries and the then government’s introduction of it into schools was simply modelling what has proven to be successful for a long time.

Most one-to-one tutoring takes place outside the school gates in the form of private tuition or sometimes referred to as private tutoring. The format of this is that, usually, the parent drives the child to the private tutor’s house or organises for the tutor to visit their own house. What often happens is the mother or father arranging for the Chemistry teacher to come to the house and teach little Johnny or Jane at the kitchen table at 7.15pm on a Tuesday evening. It may be the case that the Maths teacher comes half an hour after Chemistry on the same evening or on Friday evening after hockey practice.

How effective is one-to-one tutoring and how do you measure success?

The purpose of all forms of tutoring, including private tutoring,  is to boost the child’s confidence and performance in a specific subject at school. It is vital to measure success of tutoring so a judgement can be made to see  whether  there is a noticeable progress after a period of time. The best way to evaluate the result of one-to-one teaching is to see if there is an improvement in the student’s understanding of the subject in question, which can be done in a variety of ways, including talking to the child, speaking to the school teacher, or looking at the school test results or report. I recommend to the parent to use at least two of these as a yardstick to evaluate progress. The ultimate aim is to improve examination results at the end of GCSE or A-level, but, in many cases, the exams are still far off and it is crucial to start monitoring progress as early as possible, as it may be far too late to wait for the exam results.

In my next blogpost on this topic I ask the question as to whether there is any evidence that one-to-one teaching actually works. Watch this space!

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