Why does tutoring work?

Kurt VanLehn a Professor at Arizona State University, published a paper in 2011 entitled “The Relative Effectiveness of Human Tutoring, intelligent Tutoring Systems, and Other Tutoring”. He analysed 100+ academic papers, and has added some real insight into the proven effectiveness of tutoring.


What was interesting was that he found that on average students who had received tutoring improved by 0.79 standard deviations - enough to comfortably move a student one and a half grades. it could mean moving a student from a low D to a good C, or a low B to a good A grade.

This level of improvement may be sufficient for the student to pass their exams or get the grades to go to their preferred school or University.

So the next big question is why tutoring works. Why is it different to classroom teaching?

Kurt's view is that it works because students are motivated and engaged in learning, discussing the problems and thinking for themselves. Tutors spend more time on the areas that need reinforcing breaking down problems into a series of steps, checking understanding and providing feedback as they go - called guided prompting or 'scaffolding' - creating the framework required for effective learning