Did you know that the average American classroom has 24.3 students, leaving a single teacher to develop, plan and execute a curriculum? With the array of learning curves in a classroom, lack of student/teacher interaction and developmental disabilities, far too many students aren’t receiving the attention they need from their teachers. Additionally, an educator may be spread too thin, unable to give his/her students the quality attention he/she needs. In fact, in recent years, legislative mandates on maximum class size have become increasingly popular with at least 24 states having mandated or incentivized class-size reduction.
While this has been a step in the right direction, what has continued to show tremendous growth for students both academically and in terms of personal development is a one teacher per one student learning environment, also known as a true one-to-one experience. But, why should someone choose a one-to-one learning environment? Let’s examine the facts.
Increased Student Achievement
A study conducted in 1980 by STAR (the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) in Tennessee concluded that by moving students into smaller learning environments increased student achievement by an amount equivalent to about three additional months of schooling four years later. As a follow up, Nye et al explored the relationship between the number of years that students participated in STAR and their level of achievement. After one year, these same students had significantly higher achievement scores on the Stanford Achievement Tests than students in larger classes.
At Fusion Academy Huntington Beach where I serve as head of school, we’ve seen tremendous growth in student achievement from one-to-one teaching. In fact, 85 percent of our parents agree that their child is much more successful academically, thriving off a one-to-one relationship with a teacher that is 100 percent focused on the success of their child.
In addition to these statistics, one-to-one learning enables students to receive high-quality interaction with their teachers. Instructors are solely committed to making sure their student succeeds, and the teachers can focus on helping their students achieve their overall academic goals. In a traditional school environment, a teacher is unable to devote his/her time solely to one student. In a landmark 1978 study by Glass and Smith, both strongly endorsed reduced class size as a reform likely to produce improvements in academic achievement. The researchers reviewed 80 research reports on the relationship between class size and achievement, obtaining more than 100 comparisons from “well-documented” studies of smaller and larger classes using rigorous statistical analyses. One key factor remained steady – as class sizes decreased, student achievement overall increased significantly.
Heightened Trust and Improved Relationships
Having a positive student-teacher relationship is not only important in helping foster growth, but in providing a safe space for students to feel like they can openly share their questions and concerns. In a traditional school setting, students can sometimes feel like they are afraid to speak up publicly, or perhaps have a fear of answering a question incorrectly in front of their peers. At Fusion, we’ve seen tremendous growth in student interaction as a part of our one-to-one model. According to our most recent national survey of students, 95 percent of Fusion students reported that they ask questions and are likely to share thoughts in class, whereas only 51 percent engaged in sharing at their previous school. Improving a student’s relationship with his/her teacher has additionally proven to provide positive and long-lasting results for both academic and social development. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, high quality one-to-one student-teacher relationships appeared to be better predictors of academic adjustment, social skills and reading performance for students showing initial externalizing problems (such as aggression or hyperactivity), internalizing problems (such as anxiety or depression) and learning problems.
Tracked Successes and Struggles
Another benefit of one-to-one learning is that a teacher can get to know his/her student completely and keep track of his/her successes and struggles. Instructors can tailor and adjust lesson plans, as well as curate assignments to a student’s personalized way of learning. In a true one-to-one setting, there is one teacher and one student in one classroom. With true one-to-one learning, students are always given undivided attention one at a time – each student is placed with his/her own instructor in his/her very own classroom. According to data, after just three months of working one-to-one with their instructor, 95 percent of Fusion Academy students felt connected to their teachers. With the interpersonal connections we’ve helped to foster between our students and teachers, it’s no wonder that our students are continuing to thrive in this environment.
Additionally, a study conducted in 2004 by Klem & Connell concluded that teachers who experience one-to-one relationships with students reported that they were less likely to avoid school, appeared more self-directed, more cooperative and more engaged in learning.
With a traditional school environment, the curriculum moves at a pace where students are forced to move on to new subject matter even if they didn’t comprehend the previous lesson. One-to-one learning means that students can prove their understanding of each lesson at their own pace before moving on to the next.
Increased Interpersonal Communication Skills
Finally, one-to-one interactions give students the opportunity to practice inter-personal communication. In this setting, students will never have to decode what their teacher is trying to say, learn the material and then figure out again how to communicate back to their teacher in a specific way. Rather, communication can be more organic, tailored to the student’s preferences. If a student needs to ask additional questions about what is expected, he/she can do so without added pressure of additional peers or the fear of feeling like he/she just simply does not understand the task at hand. An article entitled The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring discusses that “It is very different in a one-to-one tutoring situation where there is a constant feedback and corrective process between the [teacher] and the [student]. If the explanation is not understood by the [student], the [teacher] soon becomes aware of it and explains it further. This fact can further be reinforced through our students at Fusion – 85 percent have reported that they feel they are learning more at Fusion than at their previous school because of inter-personal communication. Proof of this can further be found through Bowlby’s 1969 Attachment theory, and when applied to the classroom, states that students with close relationships view their teacher as a “secure base” from which to explore their environment. In practice, students with this “secure base” feel safe when making mistakes and feel more comfortable accepting the academic challenges necessary for learning.
The truth of the matter is the way we educate is changing. Gone are the days of standardized teaching – if we hope to make a true impact on our students, one-to-one teaching is the wave of the future. Though it’s easy enough to say, the facts speak for themselves. With a one-to-one learning environment, students learn at a pace that is tailored to their needs, resulting in successful leaders of tomorrow.
About the Author: Maryam Pourmohsen
Maryam Pourmohsen, head of school at Fusion Academy Huntington Beach, received a B.A. from University of California where she double majored in social ecology with a specialization in Criminology, Law & Society and Psychology & Social Behavior. She went on to receive her Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Pourmohsen has worked in education administration for over 10 years. She began her career as the director of education for InterCoast Colleges, a post-secondary school that provides educational career programs in the medical and legal industries as well as various business industries such as travel. Pourmohsen also served as the executive director of Maric College (Kaplan, Inc.) and director of education, which offers undergraduate and graduate college degrees online and in classrooms at affiliated college campuses.
Pourmohsen has a strong passion for education and loves to watch her students succeed. She has made it her personal mission to do whatever it takes to help each student reach their goals. When she is not working with her students, Pourmohsen enjoys spending time with her husband and two beautiful children taking hikes and anything else they could do under the beautiful Southern California sun.
For more information on Fusion Academy and its unique one to one learning experience, please visit www.ocfusionacademy.com.