As a reminder from my other blog post; In 1984 Benjamin Bloom did a study in which it was discovered that on average, students that were tutored learned more than their in-class peers, and often had “great differences in cognitive achievement, attitudes, and academic self-concept” (Bloom, 1984). Since then there have been many different methods and approaches when it comes to tutoring; all of which have a significant increase in student performance when compared to just learning from class material.
Today, there are several forms of tutoring. However, there are three approaches that are the most popular. The first is human tutoring, which is usually described as an adult professional working directly with a student. The second is peer tutoring, where a higher academically achieving student is paired with a lower achieving student, where they review topics and areas of struggle in attempt to improve grades and performance. The last being intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), where a computer system aims to provide a unique response tailored to the user/learner.
The human tutoring approach has its main successes in the tutors ability to make detailed diagnostic assessments, where they can judge where a student stands in terms of subject comfortability, and supply additional assistance as well as adapt their tutoring style to better suit the needs of the individual student (VanLehn, 2011). Another valuable factor in human tutoring is the use of sophisticated tutorial strategies, such as Socratic irony, the inquiry method, and reciprocal teaching.
Peer tutoring on the other hand, has main successes of peer tutoring is due to its applicability where many subjects, such as reading, math, social studies and science, can all be taught and expanded upon by the tutors (Bowman-Perrott, et al.,2013), as well as its mutual benefits, where the tutee is able to clarify questions with almost instantaneous responses and the tutor is able to solidify and pass-on their understanding. Another study by Liesje De Backer, Hilde Van Keer and Martin Valcke suggests that there is a direct correlation between the sociality of peer tutor groups and metacognitive regulation. This is believed to be due to the “fruitful environment for eliciting and optimising collaborative learners regulative acts at the social level” (Backer, Keer & Valcke,. This coincides with the mutual benefits proposed by Bowman-Perrott and colleagues.
A study by Van Lehn explains that the success of ITS comes from the program facilitating “self-repair” in the student’s knowledge, and from the scaffolding technique that is employed where hints are given when a student is stuck on a problem. Van Lehn also points out that many programs do not allow a student to advance to the next question unless the question is answered correctly, forcing the student to focus and solve the current problem (Van Lehn, 2011). ITS can mostly be classified into two main categories, the first is “Step-Based tutoring”, where a student would work using the same steps they normally would without the tutoring system (such as math equations, or balancing chemical formulas), but can ask for and receive “hints” or “advice”, depending on the program (Van Lehn, 2011). The second is “Substep-Based tutoring”, which can use more effective and advanced tutoring techniques such as the scaffolding technique and constructive feedback. There is a third category I’ll briefly mention known as “Answer-Based” programs, where the tutee-tutor-system interaction is extremely limited to when the student enters the answer, and the system judges if its correct or not without any additional assistance allowed, where the user is assumed to have reasoned through it all by themselves. This system is very ineffective.
In conclusion: Human tutoring has always been perceived as being the most effective form of tutoring, but as of recent, the ITS and peer tutoring systems have challenged that perception. In the end, some form of tutoring is better than none. 🙂 thanks for reading.
Bloom, B. S. (1984). The 2 sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational researcher, 13(6), 4-16.
Bowman-Perrott, L., Davis, H., Vannest, K., Williams, L., Greenwood, C., & Parker, R. (2013). Academic benefits of peer tutoring: A meta-analytic review of single-case research. School Psychology Review, 42(1), 39.
De Backer, L., Van Keer, H., & Valcke, M. (2015). Exploring evolutions in reciprocal peer tutoring groups’ socially shared metacognitive regulation and identifying its metacognitive correlates. Learning and Instruction, 38, 63-78.
VanLehn, K. (2011). The relative effectiveness of human tutoring, intelligent tutoring systems, and other tutoring systems. Educational Psychologist, 46(4), 197-221.