A working paper involving a meta-analysis of various studies of tutoring experiments has found that tutoring programs yield a consistent and substantial positive impact on learning outcomes.

The review looked at 96 studies regarding one-on-one and small group tutoring for students in preK to grade 12, and found an overall effect of .36 SD. They also found that randomly-selected students who received English or math tutoring outperformed their peers 80 per cent of the time.

“The study highlights how much consensus there is that tutoring is effective,” Oreopoulos told UofT News.

Small group and one-on-one tutoring allows for the customization of learning, allowing students to focus on solidifying the foundational skills they may be struggling with and then expanding on these skills in a manner and pace that the student is comfortable with. Furthermore, write the authors, there are likely less distractions in a tutoring scenario, allowing the tutor and student to focus on the task at hand for an extended period of time.

Another aspect that is integral to the success of tutoring is the one-on-one connection, which the researchers hypothesize can work to improve student’s attitude towards subject matter they may be struggling in.

The researchers defined tutoring as sessions designed to supplement an classroom-based learning with the goal of improving efficiency and equity of student learning outcomes. Particularly effective for higher grades was math tutoring, while lower grades saw a greater benefit from literacy tutoring.

The research also found that tutoring was most effective when it was conducted during class time by professional tutors or trained teachers – although it is difficult to say if this is because of learning styles or if the quality of tutoring programs vary widely based on the organization offering them.

A growing body of research on tutoring


This research adds to the growing body of studies that evaluate academic tutoring. Previously, Nimbus has produced a white paper on the benefits of peer tutoring that evaluates the following benefits.

  • Peer tutoring increases student academic performance, and thus serves as a proactive approach to reducing dropout rates.
  • Peer tutoring alleviates pressure on students and serves as a proactive approach to the university student mental health crisis.
  • Technological solutions are a more effective, accessible and effective way of administering student services

As we continue to strive for excellence during the COVID era, academic institutions will continue to need to create flexible, responsive academic support programs that can support students through this very confusing time. A well-rounded tutoring program provides that flexible, responsive support while also encouraging that one-on-one social connection that is so key to the post-secondary experience.

Nickow, Andre Joshua, Philip Oreopoulos, and Vincent Quan. (2020). The Impressive Effects of Tutoring on PreK-12 Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence. (EdWorkingPaper: 20-267). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://doi.org/10.26300/eh0c-pc52

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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