Our Research Agenda

Research Agenda: High-Impact Tutoring

The goal of the Accelerator’s Research Agenda, summarized here, is to highlight the characteristics and conditions that evidence suggests make for effective tutoring and to create an evidence-based framework for delivering and evaluating tutoring interventions. In addition, the Agenda identifies key priorities for future research to address.

Literature Review

Our Agenda begins with a summary of the existing academic research on tutoring to identify the characteristics of tutoring programs and how they can vary. The majority of the characteristics fall under program focus or one of the following elements: safety, equity, cohesion, tutor, instruction, learning integration, and data use. Within each category, tutoring programs may differ significantly from one another, as detailed in the table below under each category name.

Program Focus Safety Equity Cohesion
  • Subject area;
  • Grade level; and
  • Students (which students receive the tutoring: can be needs-driven, curriculum-driven, or universal).
Various safety protocols
  • Language (whether bilingual tutors are available);
  • Diversity of tutors;
  • Cultural competency focus; and
  • Social-emotional focus.
Organizational Culture
Tutor Instruction Learning Integration Data Use
  • Tutor type (e.g., certified teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, university students, private tutors, family members, and peers);
  • Tutor recruitment;
  • Tutor training; and
  • Tutor support and feedback.
  • Delivery (online or in-person);
  • Dosage (the frequency and length of sessions, as well as the program duration);
  • Student-tutor ratio;
  • Student grouping (how students are grouped together if tutoring occurs in small groups);
  • Tutor consistency;
  • Tutor-student relationship;
  • Structure;
  • Quality of materials; and
  • Facilitation (i.e., the quality of instructional teaching).
  • During-school or out-of-school time (OST) setting;
  • Displacement (i.e., the counterfactual: what the student would have experienced without the tutoring);
  • Take-up (is the tutoring required or do students and/or their parents have to enroll);
  • Curricular alignment (is the curriculum aligned with what the student is learning in class);
  • School and teacher engagement; and
  • Family engagement.
  • Design and improvement process;
  • Formative assessment;
  • Student progress;
  • Program evaluation; and
  • Tutor effectiveness.

Research Agenda Moving Forward

Having reviewed and discussed the existing literature on tutoring, we set forth an ambitious research plan in our “Research Agenda Moving Forward” section. We identify two priorities to guide future research.

Our first research priority is Identifying the Characteristics of Effective Tutoring. Our Agenda highlights promising avenues for further investigation into what features are necessary for high-impact tutoring and articulates worthwhile research questions — those with answers that could help policymakers and practitioners effectively implement tutoring initiatives.

Our second research priority is better understanding how to Implement Tutoring at Scale in order to reach the greatest number of students in need. We have begun to articulate a second line of suggested research questions that broadly address issues such as: Where will the supply of tutors come from? What is the demand for high-impact tutoring? And how are tutoring programs most successfully implemented?