The Cost-Benefit Case for Tutoring (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and among the interesting new studies and reviews, Claire Chuter writes about a new meta-analysis about tutoring, something I’m also doing research on in Leiden (bold by me):

Individual preK-12 tutoring experiments, varying widely in context, approach, and cost, have shown the positive impact of tutoring and small-group programs. However, a recent meta-analysis sought to summarize the findings of experimental studies since 1980. The study is the first systematic review or meta-analysis of experimental research on preK-12 tutoring interventions of all types. The authors defined tutoring as one-to-one or small-group human instruction aimed at supplementing rather than replacing classroom-based education. No correlational or quasi-experimental studies were included in this review. Through the search and screening process, 96 studies were included.
The authors found that tutoring programs yield substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes, with an overall pooled effect size estimate of +0.37. Furthermore, effects are stronger on average for teacher and paraprofessional tutoring programs as opposed to nonprofessional and parent tutoring. Effects also tend to be strongest among the earlier grades.
The main takeaways from this review are nothing new. When mulling over the decision to support any educational intervention, policymakers and practitioners must weigh the investment and opportunity costs. High positive effects may still seem unappealing if the investment costs are high, or if similar programs have potentially higher benefits. This review supports the longstanding finding that tutoring offers high return for relatively low cost. “Paid” volunteers (such as AmeriCorps members), paraprofessionals, and recent college graduates are all promising tutoring candidates. This review further supports the idea that one-to-one or small group tutoring may be a strong approach to catch up students whose learning has been hardest-hit by the coronavirus, one which has also been proposed here. Given the impressive effect sizes of tutoring in comparison with other education interventions in the tough economic times that lie ahead, turning towards expanding tutoring may also make the most fiscal sense.

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