In this blog, Lawrence explores some of the pros and cons of small group versus individual tuition. As a qualified teacher, Lawrence has experience of large secondary school classes as well as private small groups and 1:1 tuition. He reflects on the impacts that class size can have on pupil progress.
There is no doubt that, in general, small class sizes lead to better student outcomes; hence, the popularity of private 1:1 tuition. However, as the tutoring market continues to expand and benefit from new technological advances, variations on the standard individual model are growing. More people are now considering small group tuition as a cheaper alternative to 1:1 tutoring. So what are the pros and cons of each tutoring model, and what is the best option for your child?
No two students are the same. Each has a different level of background knowledge, different modes of learning, variations in aptitude, and unique interests. Accommodating more than one student at a given time invariably involves some compromise on the part of the teacher when planning lessons. Though professional teachers are trained to “differentiate”, i.e., give slightly different tasks to each student to provide an appropriate level of challenge, in reality it is difficult to do so.
The ability to tailor your lessons around merely one individual allows students to enjoy the ultimate personalised learning experience, and make rapid progress.
In addition to lesson plans being written for one student’s needs and interests, during the lesson itself, they have the sole focus of the teacher. The student doesn’t have to compete for attention as in a group lesson, and won’t be put off from asking questions due to peer pressure. This allows students a level of personal intellectual freedom that is ill afforded in a group environment.
For some students, a private lesson may also be their first experience of really being put under pressure without any classmates to rely on. Having to perform as an individual under pressure actually stands students in good stead for more intense situations, such as future school or university interviews.
Private tuition, particularly with a highly trained teacher, can be costly. Weekly lessons could set you back hundreds of pounds each month, particularly if you require support in multiple subjects.
So how would you ensure a good return on your investment? As with any large purchase, customer discernment is key when it comes to tutors. Ideally, select someone who has a teaching qualification, considerable experience in the subject you are looking for, and excellent references.
Small group classes (which normally range between two to ten students) tend to be a fraction of the cost of 1:1 lessons. This may allow some students to have lessons on a more regular basis, as opposed to just a few intermittent 1:1 lessons. This continuity and regularity of support is of immense importance when it comes to student progress.
Having other students in your class could be a motivating factor for many students. They may enjoy the social aspect of learning alongside others they get on with. Let’s not forget, small groups are still much smaller than the average school class size, so students may feel they get the best of both worlds- more focused learning and teacher attention, as well as a fun group environment.
A benefit of having a few peers is the opportunity to learn from each other and do group tasks. Students can gain much from admiring a classmate’s ingenious approach to a question, as well as from their mistakes. Collaborative learning can be particularly beneficial when it comes to more creative subjects where student demonstration is a useful learning tool.
Although a small group is far smaller than an average school class, your child still won’t have the full attention of the teacher and so their progress will be influenced by their classmates. Your child may find themself in a friendly small group where student engagement is high and attainment levels are relatively similar, or in a group where the opposite is true. This is a risk you run, particularly if you are obliged to pay for a block of lessons in advance.
If you were to compare group and individual tuition head-to-head, individual tuition would more often than not be the more effective method for student learning. This is simply a numbers game- the fewer the students, the greater the personalisation of each lesson and teacher attention during the lesson itself. Students with specific learning needs will particularly benefit from 1:1 sessions where they can access completely tailored support from a trained professional.
That being said, it doesn’t negate the fact that most students can also make much progress in a group class, particularly if they have the maturity and dedication to work hard both during and outside the lessons, and the confidence to ask the teacher questions amongst peers. If budget is a consideration, group classes may allow you to afford four or five times the number of lessons you could with 1:1 tuition, allowing for more regular support over a longer period of time.
So the answer is, both individual and group tuition are highly beneficial and will lead to better student outcomes than if your child had no outside support at all. The choice between the two is ultimately a question of the specific needs of your child, as well as your budget.