What is High-Dosage Tutoring and How Can it be Supported In School and at Home?

By Jess Corinne
August 29, 2022

It sounds like a medical or pharmacological term, but what is high-dosage tutoring really? Why has it picked up momentum as an intensive intervention in schools? Is it all that it is cracked up to be? Let’s explore the concept of high-dosage tutoring (HDT) and who it benefits the most!

How high-dosage tutoring works

COVID-19 resulted in significant learning loss across the country, and high-dosage tutoring emerged as a response to this phenomenon. Also known as high-impact tutoring, it is generally defined as one-on-one tutoring or very small group tutoring (up to four learners) at least three times a week (or for about 50 hours) over a period of 36 weeks. Sessions range from 30-60 minutes depending on the age and severity of the learner’s profile. It differs from the more common tutoring, which is often provided by less-qualified tutors and focuses on remediation approaches and typically suffers because of a lack of consistency (due to a variety of factors). Although high-dosage tutors are not educational therapists, they are required to receive stringent training and oversight from their organizations to ensure fidelity of their instructional programming. These tutors focus on folding in academic content so learners can achieve new learning opportunities, while simultaneously building up their fundamental knowledge and foundational skills. Research has found that when tutoring is administered in this way, it leads to better learning outcomes for students. A Harvard study found the approach to result in significant learner gains. According to the District of Columbia State Education Department, “High-dosage tutoring is a proven, effective strategy for increasing student outcomes, with a strong research base.” This ranks high-dosage tutoring among the best interventions available in the country. 

How High-Dosage Tutoring Results in More Learning Gains

High-dosage tutoring focuses on repetition and consistency, yielding results similar to research-validated intensive remediation. One of the reasons is the methodology leans on carry-over tasks that are similar to what learners are expected to do in the classroom which tends to heighten learners’ ability to generalize their skills across environments and also builds feelings of confidence and success. This added layer of assertiveness can positively impact a learner’s willingness to participate in class, take academic risks, and embrace a growth mindset. Because the program mainly occurs during the day, learners can balance support with real-life application, decompression, and socialization because they are not required to receive intensive intervention after the school day on top of their homework and extracurricular activities. 

Through its research, Brown University’s Annenberg Institute has identified 10 key factors that make high-dosage tutoring programs successful:

  • Frequency: Tutoring programs are most effective when delivered frequently (at least three times per week) and over consecutive weeks.
  • Personalization: One-on-one sessions with tutors are generally considered the most effective, though high-dosage tutors can make positive impacts with pairs and small groups of up to three or four students.
  • Tutor training: Tutors require adequate evidence-validated training in order to be truly impactful. The good news is, studies show that a wide variety of people can make effective tutors, relieving the burden on classroom teachers and caregivers.
  • Focus: Studies consistently show that tutoring can be effective at all grade levels. For early grades, the impact tends to be highest when tutoring is focused on reading skills. For older students, math-focused tutoring tends to be most impactful.
  • Measurement: High-dosage tutoring programs tend to be more successful when they track data about usage and when they incorporate ongoing informal assessments. This enables tutors to individualize interactions with students to better meet their needs.
  • Consistent relationships: Research indicates that a consistent, strong, established rapport between tutor and student can improve outcomes. Alternatively, a pool of tutors trained to work in consistent ways with their students can deliver similar results.
  • Alignment with classroom curriculum: Tutors get better results when their instruction is informed by and aligned with the learner’s underlying skills and classroom instruction. For example, it helps learners when tutors use similar terminology and methods as their teachers.
  • Scheduling: Tutoring tends to be most effective when it happens during school hours. Interventions that require students to be on school grounds after school hours or during the summer tend to have a lesser impact because of many factors, like fatigue and motivation. If tutoring needs to be delivered after school hours, ensure adequate breaks so that it is most effective
  • Delivery mode: While most research has targeted in-person tutoring, there is also evidence that online tutoring is effective, especially when it includes strategies similar to in-person tutoring.
  • Prioritization: Traditionally, educational interventions have been need based. However, need-based programs risk creating a negative stigma and can even be seen as a form of punishment. Alternatively, tutoring can avoid this problem by making it part of the curriculum, even a required element for all students in the classroom. Finally, tutoring can be universal—available on demand for all students and subjects at a particular grade, school, or district.

Can High-Dosage Tutoring be Given Online?

The personalization component of high-dosage tutoring allows for flexible formatting. Online models allow for less logistical roadblocks. For example, students who cannot stay after school can meet with their tutor from home, or the school can set up computer access at school for learners who need to receive the support onsite. Alternatively, in-person at school can be more effective for young learners, learners who have high energy and low attention span, or learners with more severe diagnoses. 

Learnfully uses the high-dosage tutoring model, and we provide both online and in-person educational support, allowing us to fit a broad spectrum of scheduling needs and learning formats. Online tutoring is often the preferred option for parents and learners, for a variety of reasons: 

  • Scheduling: With tutors available online and at any time, the online model significantly reduces scheduling challenges.
  • Staffing: The online model enables access to a much larger pool of tutors, including both experts in a broader range of subjects and tutors fluent in multiple languages.
  • Costs: Online delivery models reduce many of the costs associated with traditional onsite tutoring.
  • Equity: Because online tutoring is available anywhere at any time, disadvantaged students with limitations (like having adult responsibilities at home, or transportation constraints) are more likely to benefit.
  • Oversight: In addition to alignment with classroom content, the online model gives teachers and administrators direct insight into student-teacher interactions through virtual learning management systems and tech-enabled tools.
  • Measurability: Online models make it easier to track student progress and engagement, and allows adjustments to be made quickly and precisely.

If you have questions about how high-dosage tutoring can be given effectively for your learner, please reach out to us at contact@learnfully.com.