Can private tutoring help my child?
A new study shows that intervention methods like those used in private tutoring can significantly boost student learning. Applying three principles from cognitive science resulted in students scoring about 7 percent higher on final exams on materials that were taught with these simple changes.
In an engineering class at Rice University, researchers studied the different impact of standard homework assignments and a modified approach. Students received traditional assignments half the time consisting of one problem per week that was returned with their grade the following week. The other half of the time they received assignments with modifications that reflect three cognitive principles known to improve learning and long term retention:
Follow up problems: Instead of getting a single problem, students received an additional two assignments. They consisted of additional problems about the same topic.
Extended spacing: After attending each week’s lecture, students received problems that corresponded to the material at the rate of one assignment for the following three weeks. That was an increase over the previous single assignment the week after each lecture.
Improved feedback: Students received immediate feedback about their performance rather than waiting for a week to find out about their grades. Just as important, they were required to view the feedback.
The study team from Rice’s Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship and Duke University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience was led by Andrew Butler. The results have been published in the journalEducational Psychology Review.
Of course, all of these principles are already emphasized in any good quality private tutoring program. Working with a tutor gives students multiple opportunities to test themselves by recalling and applying new knowledge over an extended period of time. Tutors can also provide ample feedback in face to face sessions making it much less likely that students will fail to hear it.