Research on (SLSOs)/teaching assistants delivering tuition

The Grattan Institute recommends that small group tuition be conducted by teachers and all non-teachers, depending on availability. Their COVID-19 catch-up paper cites recent reviews that show tutoring by teaching assistants and university graduates can be at least as effective as tutoring by teachers.

A review conducted by Evidence for Learning supports this view and indicates that teaching assistants can positively impact academic achievement. The role performed by teaching assistants can vary widely but they have the most significant impact in situations where they are supporting individuals or small groups. In these situations, students gain an additional 3-5 months of learning. There is also evidence of improved attitudes among students who work with teaching assistants.

There has been no published Australasian research that has examined the impact of teaching assistants on student academic achievement. However, a randomised controlled trial (RCT) published by the UK’s Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found strong evidence that teaching assistants can improve learning. The RCT compared three groups of students who received either a numeracy program delivered by teaching assistants, time-equivalent one-on-one learning delivered by teaching assistants, or business as usual. Students in the numeracy program and the time-equivalent groups, both delivered by teaching assistants, gained an additional three months of learning over and above business as usual.

Other research in the UK indicates that a promising online tuition program can be successfully delivered by teaching assistants. ABRACADABRA (ABRA) is a 20-week literacy program in the UK for Grade 1 students. The program focuses on phonic fluency and comprehension, and an RCT found that it produced additional learning gains of five months.

In the United States, a review of 61 studies evaluating 48 different programs for struggling elementary school readers found that tutoring by teaching assistants was just as effective as tutoring by teachers. Similarly, a review of 78 studies evaluating 61 mathematics programs for elementary students found that teachers and paraprofessionals as tutors had similar impacts.

Overall, evidence suggests that if teaching assistants are well trained and supported they can be as effective as teachers in delivering small group tuition.

Work for the department? Find out more about the program on the Small Group Tuition program guidelines webpage. For program enquiries contact us via email at


  • Teaching and learning

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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