Six Principles for Doing Tutoring Right

J-PAL North America, a research center focused on reducing poverty, recently released a meta-analysis of close to 100 studies of tutoring in literacy and mathematics and found that tutoring programs consistently produced large improvements in learning outcomes for students — with effects that eclipse those of most other educational programs. More importantly, this study synthesizes much of what we know about what makes tutoring effective:

  • Programs led by teacher or paraprofessional tutors are generally more effective than those that used nonprofessional (volunteer) or parent tutors.
  • The effects tend to be strongest in the early grades.
  • Tutoring in reading tends to be relatively more effective for students in preschool through first grade, while math tutoring tends to be more effective for students in later grades.
  • Tutoring programs conducted during school tend to have larger impacts than those held after school.

With this information in mind, Kimberly Dadisman, senior policy and research manager for J-PAL North America, and Mark Schneider, director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, recently summarized six principles for doing tutoring right. They include:

  1. Organize around subjects and grade level combinations.
  2. Use diagnostic assessments.
  3. Adopt strategies that serve students from diverse backgrounds, including students with disabilities, English learners and children facing other challenges.
  4. Avoid reinventing the wheel by identifying tutoring programs that already have evidence of success and focus on scaling them up — always keeping in mind that some programs will fit better with some subject/grade combinations than others.
  5. Use digital learning platforms by focusing on tutoring programs that already have demonstrated they can be successfully delivered online.
  6. Treat any rapid expansion of tutoring as an experiment and monitor and rigorously evaluate how different programs perform.

For more information, see:

For the meta-analysis, see: