Evidence for Learning: One to one tuition

One to one tuition

High impact for moderate cost based on moderate evidence
Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)

One to one tuition involves a teacher, teaching assistant or other adult giving a student intensive individual support. It may happen outside of normal lessons as additional teaching – for example as part of extending school time or a summer school – or as a replacement for other lessons.

1. On average, one to one tuition is very effective at improving student outcomes. One to one tuition might be an effective strategy for providing targeted support for students that are identified as having low prior attainment or are struggling in particular areas.

2. Tuition is more likely to make an impact if it is additional to and explicitly linked with normal lessons.

3. One to one tuition can be expensive to deliver, particularly when delivered by teachers. Approaches that either deliver instruction through teaching assistants or in small groups rather than one to one have smaller positive effects, on average, but may be a cost-effective solution to providing targeted support.

4. For one to one tuition led by teaching assistants, interventions are likely to be particularly beneficial when the teaching assistants are experienced, well-trained and supported – for example, delivering a structured intervention.

Evidence indicates that one to one tuition can be effective, providing approximately five additional months’ progress on average.

Short, regular sessions (about 30 minutes, three to five times a week) over a set period of time (up to ten weeks) appear to result in optimum impact. Evidence also suggests tuition should be additional to, but explicitly linked with, normal teaching, and that teachers should monitor progress to ensure the tutoring is beneficial. Studies comparing one to one with small group tuition show mixed results. In some cases one to one tuition has led to greater improvement, while in others tuition in groups of two or three has been equally or even more effective. The variability in findings may suggest it is the particular type or quality of teaching enabled by very small groups that is important, rather than the precise size of the group.

Programs involving teaching assistants or volunteers can have a valuable impact, but may be less effective than those using experienced and specifically trained teachers. Where tuition is delivered by volunteers or teaching assistants there is evidence that training and the use of a structured program is advisable.

Despite the popularity and success of one to one programs, there is little research that specifically examines the effectiveness of the one to one element of these programs in Australia.

However, a good number of Australian studies have examined the impact of specific interventions which are delivered via one to one tuition interventions, most notably Reading Recovery, and some studies show one to one tutoring to benefit students’ interpersonal skills, emotional wellbeing, motivation, confidence, and access to cultural capital.

  • Studies undertaken in primary schools tend to show greater impact (+6 months) compared with secondary schools (+4 months).

  • Effects in mathematics appear to be substantially lower (+2 months) than in literacy (+6 months).

  • Short, regular sessions (about 30 minutes, three to five times a week) over a set period of time (up to ten weeks) appear to result in optimum impact.

  • Studies involving digital technology show broadly similar effects.

  • Studies have been undertaken in seven countries around the world with broadly similar effects.

Studies in England have shown that students from disadvantaged backgrounds receive additional benefits from one to one tuition. Low achieving students are particularly likely to benefit.

One to one tuition approaches can enable students to make effective progress by providing intensive, targeted academic support to those identified as having low prior achievement or at risk of falling behind. The approach allows the teacher or tutor to focus exclusively on the needs of the student and provide teaching that is closely matched to each student’s understanding. One to one tuition offers greater levels of interaction and feedback compared to whole class teaching which can support students spend more time on new or unfamiliar tasks, overcome barriers to learning and increase their progress through the curriculum.

One to one tuition has an impact by providing additional support that is targeted at a student’s needs. Reducing the ratio of students to teacher allows for closer interaction between educators and students. When adopting one to one tuition, schools should consider how to ensure that these active ingredients have a positive impact through:

  • Accurately identifying the students that require additional support.
  • Understanding the learning gaps of the students that receive tuition and using this knowledge to select curriculum content appropriately.
  • Ensuring teachers are well-prepared for having high quality interactions with students, such as providing well-planned feedback.
  • Ensuring that tuition is well-linked to classroom content and allowing time for the teacher and tutor to discuss the tuition.
  • Monitoring the impact of tuition on student progress and adjusting provision accordingly.

One to one tuition may be delivered by teachers, trained teaching assistants, academic mentors or tutors. Interventions are typically delivered over an extended period, often over several weeks or a school term.

When introducing new approaches, schools should consider implementation. For more information see Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation.

The average cost of one to one tuition is moderate. The costs to schools are largely based on additional salary costs and learning resources, the majority of which are recurring costs. A single student receiving 30 minutes tuition, five times a week for 12 weeks requires about four full days of a teacher’s time, which is estimated to cost approximately $1,625 per student. Costs are generally lower for online delivery compared to in person tuition and are higher when provided by qualified or specialist teachers.

When delivering teacher or TA-led small group tuition, implementation is likely to require a large amount of staff time compared with whole class approaches. Given the lower costs, small group tuition may be a sensible approach to trial before considering one to one tuition. See small group tuition.

Alongside time and cost, school leaders should consider using providers with a track record of effectiveness. To increase the impact of school-led one to one tuition, school leaders might consider professional development for teachers, TAs, and tutors to support high-quality teaching in areas such as formative assessment, curriculum knowledge, instruction and feedback, which will build capacity in school.

The security of the evidence around one to one tuition is rated as moderate. 123 studies were identified that meet the inclusion criteria for the Toolkit. The topic lost two additional padlocks because:

  • A large percentage of the studies were not independently evaluated. Evaluations conducted by organisations connected with the approach – for example, commercial providers – typically have larger impacts, which may influence the overall impact of the strand.
  • There is a large amount of unexplained variation between the results included in the topic. All reviews contain some variation in results, which is why it is important to look behind the average. Unexplained variation (or heterogeneity) reduces our certainty in the results in ways that we have been unable to test by looking at how context, methodology or approach is influencing impact.

As with any evidence review, the Toolkit summarises the average impact of approaches when researched in academic studies. It is important to consider your context and apply your professional judgement when implementing an approach in your setting.

Evidence strength
Number of studies123
Review last updatedJuly 2021