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[High Impact Tutoring] An Effective Tool to Address Unfinished Learning

Unfinished learning is not a new concept. Addressing skill gaps or incomplete learning after a hiatus in instruction or a misstep in crucial understanding is a long-standing challenge—and one that can derail progress when teachers stop to reteach missing skill of a few, to all. 

The solution could be a high impact tutoring program that features one-on-one time and personal relationships for maximum effectiveness. However, traditionally, school-provided tutoring has presented a challenge to districts for a variety of reasons, including staffing, costs, scheduling, accountability, equity, and fidelity. It also frequently means that students removed from the classroom, losing valuable grade level instruction. Yet, schools are finding themselves faced with the need for intensive tutoring. Innovators are leveraging changes in the educational environment to overcome these obstacles and make high impact tutoring more accessible in their school communities.

What is high impact tutoring?

High impact tutoring, or high-dosage tutoring, is an evidence-based routine that supports students on an individual basis or within small groups. These small groups are usually between two and five students, and they meet three or more times a week. Incorporating this design allows for a just-in-time process with proven benefits for students.

The March 2021 study by the University of Chicago Education Lab, “Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents,” demonstrates that individualized, intensive tutoring can double or triple the amount of math high school students learn each year, increase student grades, and reduce math and non-math course failures.

The high-impact tutoring, as outlined by the University of Chicago Education Lab study, included daily 45- to 50-minute, two-on-one math instruction with 9th and 10th grade students. Tutors complemented in-classroom learning and helped students catch up to grade level by providing personalized instruction and collaborating with the teachers, caregivers, and most importantly, students. 

What makes high impact tutoring successful?

Stronger educator/student relationships

Having a consistent connection between a student and a tutor creates a path to engaged interactions that might be stunted in the classroom. By spending long periods in close contact with a tutor, especially when isolated from the social and behavioral distractions that often take teachers off task in classrooms, students gain more effective instruction and learn more content. Additionally, not removing students from critical classroom grade-level instruction, helps ensure that they are not falling farther behind.

Increased access to support for students

High-impact tutoring can also provide some flexibility to learning that teachers might not have in their day. While various studies have found high-impact tutoring to be incredibly valuable when working with students in an infused-in-the-school-day model, there are other supports that tutors can provide. It has become even more obvious with the move to virtual learning that students may prefer and choose to learn at all points of the day and night. However, this can be complex when a teacher is not available on demand. Because a tutor’s schedule and location can be flexible, students can have a resource to ask questions or review content outside of the hours of the typical school day, through a myriad of modalities. 

Alleviation of strain from educators

Tutors can review written assignments from students and, by checking grammar and performing a content sweep, they help students turn in papers that are both higher quality and easier to grade. This simple activity now allows teachers to provide more meaningful feedback on content to students. Additionally, tutors can be a lifeline for students to reach out to when they hit a roadblock. This frees teachers for other activities, including providing individualized attention, feedback, and inspired instruction.

For administrators and school leaders thinking of introducing high-impact tutoring into their school community, equipping teachers with the skills and resources to address working with the resource of tutoring, a tool in their toolbox, should be high-priority. For students, educators, and the educational system, leveraging high-impact tutoring in creative effective ways, whether in the classroom physically or online during or outside of school hours, is a beneficial resource. Providing the space to learn how to use tutoring within the individual classroom and for individual students can open the doors to productive collaboration.

Interested in learning more about building a successful high-impact tutoring program? Check out our blog post, Relationships Matter: Student Connection Is Key to Building an Impactful Tutoring Program.

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