At-risk 1st-grade students who received tutoring in a small group of 3 students made the same gains in reading as students who received tutoring one on one, says a recent study in Preventing School Failure.
“Providing instruction to students in small groups offers a solution for the lack of resources (time, staff) in many schools,” the researchers report. “The students made comparable progress and gains in reading when instructed in small groups of three, and because it is a more efficient use of resources, it may be preferable to 1:1.”
All 1st graders in 3 elementary schools were screened using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). The 54 students who were identified as needing additional intervention were randomly assigned to the 1:3 or the 1:1 groupings. One limitation of this study, the authors note, is that there was not a control group that did not receive tutoring.
All students were from classrooms in which the primary reading program was Open Court (2000). Principals selected nine reading tutors who averaged 10 years of teaching experience (range 2-20 years). The Early Reading Tutor was used as a supplemental reading intervention. ERT provides scripted text instruction to address phonemic awareness, explicit phonics, passage reading, spelling and fluency. Tutors attended two 3-hour workshop before the study began. Students received daily tutoring sessions for a total of about 40 lessons.
There was no difference in the incidences of inappropriate behavior between the two groupings, the authors report. Most incidences of inappropriate behavior occurred when a new teaching format was introduced. As the intervention progressed, new formats were introduced such as the flashcard format, the fluency format and the short book format.
“Effects of Two Grouping Conditions on Students Who Are at Risk for Reading Failure,” by Shawnna Helf, Preventing School Failure, Volume 53, Number 2, pp. 113-126.