The Importance of On-Demand Tutoring in Providing Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated instruction is essential, but educator shortages and burnout make it challenging. On-demand tutoring offers a solution to support differentiated learning, reduce teacher workloads, and enhance student achievement.
What is differentiated instruction (and how does it support student achievement)?
Differentiated instruction is an educational process that allows students of varying ability levels to learn within the same classroom. Ideally, differentiated instruction helps each student maximize growth and take advantage of their full potential by providing instruction specifically geared toward each student's unique needs, talents, and learning style.
A study by Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences found that students' learning outcomes significantly improve when teachers use differentiated content, individualized instructional strategies, and increased opportunities to explore content based on their strengths.
Differentiated instruction has several key elements.
- Classroom-managed procedures: The classroom has clear procedures for the progression of work, assignments, and behavior expectations in the classroom environment.
- Promoting student engagement and motivation: Differentiated instruction focuses on ensuring that students are encouraged to further explore their strengths and areas of interest. This helps encourage them to engage in higher-level learning.
- Assessing student readiness: Regular assessments give more insight into student progress. This can guide student learning and give better insights into when students might be ready to move on to a new level or type of content.
- Providing support for individual learning styles: Differentiated learning helps students learn in the way they learn best rather than trying to force them all to learn the same way.
- Making content accessible to the student's skill level: In addition to providing instruction for struggling learners, differentiated instruction may provide additional content for students who may be ready to move on to a new level or who are ready for new types of content.
Addressing challenges to differentiation in today’s classrooms
The average class size in the United States is more than 20 students per class. Many districts and grade levels may have far more students per class. Even a small class can have students with a wide range of skills, aptitudes, and learning styles.
A single teacher may struggle to serve the needs of all those students. In addition, burnout has become a serious area of concern for many instructors. In a Lexia Learning survey in 2022, 71% of educators noted that they were worried about burnout for the 2022-2023 school year. The report notes:
The high probability of burnout comes at a time when educators believe students will require more individualized instruction to achieve at- or above-grade-level performance. About 75% of educators think that more one-on-one student-teacher time would help their students in the 2022-2023 school year. More than half of educators (56%) feel their students would need increased access to classroom specialists (e.g., special ed teachers, subject-matter specialists, school psychologists).
The need for differentiated support in the classroom to support student achievement has become increasingly obvious. Unfortunately, most instructors have too many students in the classroom to provide that level of differentiation. Furthermore, classroom teachers continue to struggle with burnout-related challenges that can make it even more difficult for them to rise to those challenges.
How can on-demand tutoring support differentiated learning?
When utilized in a 1:1 framework – as is provided through the Pear Deck Tutor platform – online tutoring offers a number of benefits to directly support differentiated learning and provide each student with the tailored support they need to excel.
When students work 1:1 with a tutor, they receive the undivided attention and focus of a subject-matter expert who can support them exactly where they are in their learning journey. Leveraging this kind of support in a school or classroom setting provides educators the opportunity to support each student based on their skill needs, whether they need help mastering foundational concepts or are ready to be challenged beyond the current content.
On-demand tutoring also allows students to explore content and ask questions about what interests them. That can help increase their overall engagement with the content and raise their curiosity as learners.
Furthermore, 1:1 tutoring keeps students on task while classroom educators are busy working with other individual students or small groups. Instead of students getting distracted or frustrated when they can’t get direct help immediately from their teacher, students can work through independent practice with a live tutor, staying actively engaged throughout the learning process.
This active learning style is an evidence-based tactic that enhances student learning capacity and develops students' competencies and skills. One-to-one tutoring also reinforces positive interpersonal relationships, which has been directly linked to individual enthusiasm for learning and an increase in overall engagement.
Research to Practice: Actionable tips for utilizing on-demand tutoring to support differentiation in the classroom
When utilized within the classroom, online tutoring can be leveraged to reduce teacher burnout and increase student achievement. For example. the Gradual Release Model is an evidence-based instructional strategy commonly employed within K-12 classrooms. Referred to as the "I Do, We Do, You Do" Method, this strategy allows students to gradually take more ownership over their learning.
However, educators often run into barriers when implementing this strategy. Primarily, skill gaps and language barriers make it difficult to transition into the independent practice portion of the release, known as “You Do”. While some students can complete their assignments quickly, others may need more support before they’re able to confidently complete their assignments.
This dichotomy often results in a myriad of issues. Teachers are a limited resource that can only support a small portion of students at a time, leaving other students who may be struggling frustrated and idle while they wait. This idleness can lead to an increase in negative behavior incidents, impacts on student confidence, and a growing disinterest in the learning process.
Beyond struggling students, other learners may quickly complete the assignment and need additional challenges. Stretched on time and prep, educators often can’t meet the enrichment needs of these students, and the students miss out on an opportunity to dive deeper into the content.
On-demand tutoring provides 1:1 support for students during this independent learning process. Students can receive individualized support that will help them:
- Master the content
- Investigate deeper into what interests them
- Be challenged beyond their current classwork
This is also where interpersonal relationships continue to grow. During the “You Do” practice, students can access live tutors to assist with understanding and mastering their classwork further. As an extension of the “We Do” portion of the Gradual Release Method, online tutoring provides more structure and individualized instruction for each student, creating a classroom culture rooted in empowerment and curiosity.
This is just one example of how online tutoring can be utilized to fit within the framework of the classroom.
The partnership with Pear Deck Tutor (formerly TutorMe) allows educators to continue to provide excellent classroom instruction. It also allows the pathway to differentiation to become efficient and feasible.
Learn how Pear Deck Tutor can improve differentiation in your classroom
The need for differentiation continues to increase as students face growing and changing demands. However, the stress on teachers makes it difficult for them to handle that on their own. Online tutoring is an excellent in-class support that can help support differentiation and increase student agency in reaching education goals.
Contact the Pear Deck Tutor (formerly TutorMe) team to learn more about bringing 1:1 tutoring to your district.