1:1 Tuition with a Difference
A Research Project Evaluation
At the start of the last academic year, I decided that I wanted to investigate the effect of different types of pupil conferencing across the school. I wanted to particularly focus on the progress of underachieving children who were not on-track to achieve year group expectations. I met with staff in a range of contexts and worked with them to develop several different styles of pupil conferencing as the year progressed.
End of key stage data in 2016 had identified progress in reading as a school-wide issue, however following assessments carried out at the start of the year with our year 6 cohort, it was clear that there was a real risk that a large group of those children would not reach age related expectations in maths.
By chance, at the end of term 2, I received a promotional email from a maths advisor advertising a showcase meeting at Aldington Primary School for a company called Third Space Learning. Third Space Learning were offering 1:1 maths sessions for children – teaching children maths by using mentor/coaching techniques to consolidate understanding and deepen their learning in areas of maths set by their class teachers.
The key difference between Third Space Learning 1:1 tuition and the standard 1:1 tuition that we had used before as a school was that these sessions were carried out online – using a headset and a laptop computer. Quite often our students were working with teachers based in other parts of the world such as India or Sri Lanka. Whilst at Aldington Primary, I watched a session in progress, spoke to the deputy head and then spoke to a group of children at length about their experiences with the programme. All came across very positively and indicated that this was a provision that I should investigate further.
Key Research Question:
After speaking at length at SLT level, I got the go-ahead from my Principal to invest what was quite a considerable sum of money in trialling Third Space Learning as a research project with seven children. I used the following question to frame my research: “How does the use of 1:1 pupil conferencing affect the progress of pupils who are not on-track to achieve combined age-related expectations at the end of KS2?”.
Initially, I met with the class teachers to identify children who had significant progress to make in maths before the end of KS2. Two boys and five girls were selected. The types of children identified were those that were quieter in class and had no significant behaviour problems. They were generally the types of pupil who do not readily join in actively in lessons nor offer their thinking and reasoning regarding answers to problems; they were children whose maths vocabulary was limited. Five of the children were entitled to Pupil Premium funding. Based on the autumn term SATs assessments, the children were on average 30% away from the threshold for achieving ARE. It was clear that they needed to make significantly above average progress and, at that point, were very unlikely to achieve the standard needed at the end of year six.
I decided to survey the children’s attitudes to maths before the sessions started and again at the end. I used the online tool Survey Monkey to do this and used many of the same questions at the start and the end of the project to gauge progress.
I also used an adapted ‘diamond nine’ sorting activity with the children once the programme had finished. This was designed to gauge how effective they had found the 1:1 sessions when compared to other elements of maths teaching that they had been exposed to across the year.
· For the entirety of the programme, each of the seven children selected spent each 1-hour session engaged in high –quality maths talk. They were challenged and motivated to make progress through a range of high-quality resources that were pitched at an appropriate level.
· Tailored 1:1 tuition coupled with regular quality-first teaching back in class is an effective tool for accelerating the progress of underachieving children in maths.
· The quality of the resources used by the tutors is vital in ensuring children are working at the depth needed to be able to interpret their SATs test independently.
· The quality of talk for maths – and the quality of the teacher’s questioning is vital in assessing children’s understanding and moving their learning forward.
· Survey results prove that all children really value the regular 1:1 time and felt that the sessions were effective in moving their learning forward.
A range of positive comments were made by the children such as:
“Third Space really helped me with my thinking and how to break a problem down.”
“It helped me with my speaking in class.”
“I learnt about fractions because I got really stuck on them and now they are easy for me.”
“It helped me get on in maths and not get more stressed.”
“It was strange a first but now I really like it”
There were also some negative issues raised by the children:
“ "Don’t offer pictures too much or only offer pics if they’re are getting stressed etc.”
“Sometimes I found it hard to understand what my tutor had said”
“Sometimes the technology played up and my headset broke”
“Sometimes I had to do things that I could do already – they should talk to my teacher.”
Six out the seven children who were chosen for Third Space Maths achieved age related expectations in their maths SATs tests. The child that didn’t achieve expectations still made solid progress overall but unfortunately really underperformed on the days of the tests.
Here is an example of one of the sorting activities carried out at the end of the programme once SATs results had been issued.
I asked the children to sort the cards to show what has been the most effective strategy this year for enabling them to make progress in maths. This shows that for Pupil A, she found Third Space to be the most effective.
Similarly, for Pupil B, she found Third Space learning to be the most effective strategy for her over the past year.
Pupil C did not rate Third Space as highly as the other children, even though she had made excellent progress.
When I unpicked this with her afterwards, I was surprised to find that there were some uncomfortable racial prejudices that had altered her perceptions of the usefulness of the programme. These felt to me as if they had been ingrained at home and there had been some negative attitudes displayed by her parents regarding her “working with somebody in a call centre in India”. (These never came across during sessions however and I observed her engaging fully and achieving highly in all sessions). As a school, this highlights that we need to do more to tackle these kinds of attitudes with our children in the next year. Interestingly, the child in question made the most progress across the year, both in Third Space Sessions and in her SATs tests.
Coupled with regular teaching, it is clear that this approach of 1:1 tuition has been very successful in plugging attainment gaps and thus accelerating the progress of targeted children. Survey results show that children feel that their confidence levels and conceptual understanding have increased because of these 1:1 sessions. Teachers have noted that children’s language skills have improved as they have been forced to engage in a high-quality conversation about maths for an hour a week on top of their normal maths provision.
The quality of the targeted resources used by the tutors and children during sessions should not be underestimated. Because the nature of the challenges and problems has been matched so closely to the demands of the year six curriculum, they have really enabled tutors to hone in on children’s gaps and accelerate their learning through a topic. Third Space Learning have readily responded to current thinking around best practice in maths teaching and have integrated strategies such as bar modelling into their resources to support learning. I have found the company to be very supportive and flexible and have been quick to address any problems that may have occurred.
By working in a 1:1 capacity, tutors are best placed to really unpick a child’s understanding and misconceptions in detail and plug gaps. This is because they have the time to do this and to work at the child’s pace. Because pupils are not being forced to respond in front of a class of 29 other children, they are able to relax and talk without being influenced by peer pressure and a fear of failure.
By working with the same tutor each week, children develop a working relationship with the same person and begin to trust them and relax in sessions as time goes on.
We have been impressed with the outcomes of the Third Space Sessions and have committed to continue with the programme next year. We will be targeting ten Year Six children who are currently not on track to achieve age related expectations by the time they sit their SATs. Seven of these children began the programme as soon as the year 6 children had finished their SATs. They will have more than double the time using Third Space Learning than the initial Year 6 group.
We plan to make use of the high-quality resources that Third Space provide for all year groups either in class, with small groups, or in our own 1:1 face to face sessions in school.
As a whole school we must fully investigate and explore racial stereotypes with the children to ensure their attitudes are as positive as possible and any preconceptions and negative attitudes are challenged quickly and effectively.