THE “2 SIGMA PROBLEM”: RESEARCH ESTABLISHES SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS FROM ONE-ON-ONE TUTORING*


Did you know? Original research first established in 1984** that significant academic performance enhancement was realized by students who received one-on-one tutoring, compared to students who received conventional classroom instruction. University of Chicago and Northwestern University researcher Benjamin Bloom demonstrated that one-on-one and small group tutoring resulted in the average student scoring above 98% of their control group peers. In his own words,

… the most striking of the findings is that under the best learning conditions we can devise (tutoring), the average student is 2 sigma above the average control student taught under conventional group methods of instruction. The tutoring process demonstrates that most of the students do have the potential to reach this high level of learning…

He also noted the implications of his findings,

I believe an important task… is to seek ways of accomplishing this [2 sigma advantage] under more practical and realistic conditions than the one-to-one tutoring, which is too costly for most societies to bear on a large scale. This is the “2 sigma” problem.

Bloom then proceeded to lay out his ideas for solving this problem in the classroom, which we will discuss in a forthcoming post (spoiler: a lot of progress has been made, but the problem is not yet solved).  While this is certainly good news for many families who can afford it, the challenges with making one-on-one tutoring accessible on a large scale has challenged researchers ever since.

Bloom’s findings have certainly been influential to us as well; in addition to in-person lessons, at Adriana Academics we employ online and mobile technologies to make one-on-one tutoring broadly accessible.

*This post is adapted from our previous post at facebook.com/adrianaacademics.

**Bloom, Benjamin S. “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring.” Educational Researcher 13.6 (1984): 4-16. Web.

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