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News & Insights 16 June 2022

EEF report finds survey boosts pupils’ attendance at tutoring sessions

Last year, the Education Endowment Foundation commissioned a rapid trial that looked at simple ways of improving pupils’ attendance at tutoring sessions offered through the National Tutoring Programme. Action Tutoring was excited to be one of the Tuition Partners contributing to this trial.

The trial tested out three simple strategies, delivered in addition to the usual training and development offered to tutors by the Tuition Partners. Two of the light-touch interventions tested, including one trialled by Action Tutoring volunteers, were not found to boost pupil attendance above usual levels. However, a third strategy—which used a short ‘snap survey’ to show tutors and pupils what they had in common—was found to have a positive impact on attendance.

Action Tutoring places a high value on evidence for shaping our work. We welcome the chance to help improve the knowledge-base about what strategies enable pupils to get the most out of tutoring sessions. The trial report strongly recommends continuing to prioritise tutors’ relationship-building skills. It also notes the high standard of existing guidance and support already available to our volunteers to support this. For Action Tutoring, being involved in the trial highlighted the growing, powerful bank of knowledge and experience within our volunteer community, and the potential this has to help more disadvantaged pupils transform their learning.

To find out more about the successful snap survey intervention and how it worked, visit the EEF’s website.

Below you can find the EEF’s press release publishing the research:

Encouraging tutors to find out what they have in common with pupils can help boost attendance at sessions

Getting tutors and pupils to take short online surveys to identify what they have in common can help boost attendance at sessions, according to a new report published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today. 

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) tested three different strategies to find out if ‘lighttouch’ interventions could boost attendance at tutoring sessions during the delivery of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partners pillar in the Spring and Summer term of 2021.

Four of the 33 Tuition Partners took part in the ‘Snap Survey’ trial. Pupils and tutors answered quick-fire questions about their personal interests, hobbies, and values. One question asked participants to choose from a list of major sporting events which one they’d most like to attend. Another asked whether laughter, loyalty or listening is most important for a friendship.

Once completed, both tutors and pupils received instant feedback on their similarities. Tutors also received reminders of their similarities with their pupils for the next five weeks, including some suggested conversation prompts. Tutors then used teaching strategies that incorporated their pupils’ interests to help to build a positive relationship.

The evaluation found that pupils randomly selected to receive the Snap Survey had higher attendance rates than pupils in the ‘business as usual’ control group, where Tuition Partners used their usual strategies to encourage attendance.

The intervention was delivered at a time when attendance in English schools was severely affected by partial school closures and pupil and staff absences. Data from the Department for Education shows school attendance was 58% for the Spring term of 2021.

The trials were designed to assess the effectiveness of the three different strategies, and not the overall attendance rate of the NTP. To do this, they developed an outcome measure that divided the number of session hours attended by the number of sessions purchased for that pupil. On this measure, the ‘Snap Survey’ approach increased attendance at sessions from 62% to 66%.

The other two strategies tested were:

  • Engagement-Boosting Reminders, where behaviorally informed reminder messages were sent directly to pupils via email.
  • Prioritising Tutoring Relationships, where tutors completed a short web-based activity focused on relationship-building strategies that could be used with pupils.

Tutors also received reminders about the personal strategy they developed in the activity. These two strategies performed no better or worse than the strategies used in the ‘business as usual’ control groups. 

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said:

“To make sure that the National Tutoring Programme delivers on its aims, it is essential that we continue to learn about how to effectively engage pupils. These important findings add to our understanding of how we can secure pupils’ ongoing participation in the programme, and in turn, maximise its impact on learning in the wake of the pandemic.”

David Halpern, CEO of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), said:

“These are an important series of trials with practical and policy implications. First, they demonstrate the importance of a tutor finding common areas of interest with the student they are teaching, and identify a simple, authentic and unobtrusive way of doing this. It’s a technique intuitively used by many effective tutors, but the trial shows how it can be used more widely. Second, these rapid BIT-EEF trials show how ‘marginal gains’ can be layered on top of existing interventions. This enables programmes to be enhanced, rapidly but systematically identifying which variations work more effectively, and which work no better than usual. Policymakers and practitioners often presume that robust trials take years to set up and get results from. These trials show that this presumption is not true, opening the door to more accelerated improvements in outcomes for our children.”

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