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From Good to Great 1-to-1: What's the Difference?

By Valentino Salvato 

We’ve worked closely with Nesta over the years (they’re one of our investors) and were very interested to see the work they’ve done with Teach First and Brightside to explore what a framework for quality one-to-one intervention might look like. Given the relatively strong evidence from the Sutton Trust and Education Endowment Foundation on the impact of 1-to-1, and the increasing number of providers, it certainly helps to look more closely at what we mean by a one-to-one intervention, and its most effective use in different circumstances. 

Defining the scope

The Nesta project looked at Instruction, Tutoring, Mentoring and Coaching.

On this continuum instruction can be seen as a very explicit set of commands imparted to perform a task while tutoring requires an expert and knowledgeable person that can communicate that knowledge to the learner. Mentoring and coaching somewhat overlap. The key difference is that the mentor is a kind of role model while the coach doesn’t have to be an expert in the subject and is rather a facilitator of self-reflection and enquiry.

Modifying the approach according to the learner’s needs

We find this a useful model ourselves at Third Space and tutors are trained to modify their approach according to the learner’s needs. Where some pupils might need help on recalling their times tables (Instruction), others will be assisted to apply their learning (Tutoring), and with the more advanced pupils tutors will encourage a more analytical approach modelling the answering of a question to enable the pupil to apply their analysis in a new situation (Mentoring). Coaching sits below all as we endeavour also to help pupils to perform at their full potential, helping them towards self-discovery, and actualisation.

Flexibility is key

Even in one lesson a tutor can be a mentor in modeling the love for learning, an instructor while teaching some specific computational skills, and a coach when using empathy, listening and questioning skills to bring out the best from a pupil and to elicit conceptual understanding and mastery of the subject. 

Our one-to-one Maths tutors are more likely to be plugging learning gaps than first time teaching for a topic, but, if needed, instruction can have its place in one-to-one.

The work that has been done by Nesta and other organisations sharing expertise around this instructing, tutoring, mentoring, coaching continuum has helped to focus our own thinking for our Initial Tutor Training programme. Tutors are now explicitly trained to think very consciously about what level of support they are providing during each activity and to flex accordingly.

We’d love to know where on the continuum you think a one-to-one Maths intervention can have the most benefit for your pupils.

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