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Closing the 2-Sigma Gap: Eight Strategies to Replicate One-to-One Tutoring in Blended Learning

David Denton (Seattle Pacific University, USA)
David Wicks (Seattle Pacific University, USA)
Vicki Eveland (Seattle Pacific University, USA)
Session Information
July 8, 2013 - 3:00pm
Teaching and Learning
Areas of Special Interest: 
Blended Course
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Delta Center - Ballroom B
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 3

Participants investigate eight strategies in blended learning, organized through approaches to instruction that characterize one-to-one tutoring.

Extended Abstract

Benjamin Bloom, probably best known for Bloom's Taxonomy, contributed significant research and theory on a wide array of educational topics, including the effects of tutoring on student achievement. In 1984, Bloom wrote an article titled The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring. Bloom found that one-to-one tutoring improved student performance two standard deviations above the mean on academic measures in comparison to students taught in conventional classrooms.
These findings are unsurprising to most educators. However, the critical question derived from Bloom's (1984) research is whether teachers in conventional classrooms can replicate characteristics of one-to-one tutoring.

The replication question persists today, regardless of level or subject area. A significant pursuit of all educators is to use the most effective instructional practices available in order to raise student achievement. One way to organize effective practice is through characteristics of teaching and learning that replicate one-to-one tutoring. Examples that qualify this pursuit in current terms include differentiated instruction and adaptive learning systems such as Khan Academy (Office of Educational Technology, 2013).

Finding ways to more closely approximate characteristics of one-to-one tutoring in conventional settings inspires educators to experiment with alternative instructional formats. One of these is blended learning, which combines elements of online, classroom, and mobile engagement techniques (Strauss, 2012). However, some have suggested that blended learning is a fad, and subject to the same kind of waning interest as other educational innovations (Strauss, 2012).

Implementing and sustaining educational innovation, such as blended learning, depends on the use of effective instructional strategies. Characteristics of one-to-one tutoring provide a set of benchmark activities for identifying and organizing these types of effective practices within the context of blended learning environments.

Bloom (1984) proposed four areas for development: 1) improving instructional materials, 2) enhancing peer interactions, 3) considering student differences, and 4) engaging higher mental processes. Some blended learning research readily aligns with these areas. For example, Abdulla (2012) found that students engaged in blended learning benefited from concise organization of instructional materials, practically implemented through calendar tools, assignment rubrics, and timely announcements. Likewise, Nissen and Tea (2012) found that students improved performance when instructors carefully differentiated between face-to-face and online components, clarifying procedures for communicating learning activities and assignment expectations.

Similarly, strategies for enhancing peer interactions through blended learning have been investigated by Cowan (2012) and Wilson, and Randall (2012), who found that group work organized around projects, improved student perceptions of social presence. Cowan (2012) and Wilson, and Randall (2012) also found that clearly articulated expectations, in terms of group dynamics, were necessary for effective peer interactions.

Another area for development, considering student differences, means accounting for how participants in blended learning environments perceive traditional versus nontraditional formats. Kim (2012) found that students perceived blended learning in one of four ways, including those that preferred e-learning, lecture, social interaction, or those that preferred a mix of approaches. Kim suggested that instructors informally assess students regarding their penchants toward particular types of instruction, and then adjust course activities accordingly or at least raise awareness regarding these differences.

Engaging higher mental processes is an area of particular interest, since it includes cognitive and metacognitive dimensions. According to Yang (2012), students engaging in blended learning struggle with managing time, prioritizing activities, and organizing learning materials. These findings suggest that instructors include metacognitive training as part of course content to enable students to manage these non-subject matter related activities. Alternatively, Kim (2012) has reported that students experience cognitive gains through blended approaches, since content is conveniently delivered and accessed, and can be repeated according to individual need. However, taking advantage of these types of efficiencies depends on how an instructor manages and engages subject matter. Example methods suggested by Kim (2012) include practice opportunities, metacognitive training, and social interactions.

Instructors choose from a wide variety of instructional practices to meet their objectives. However, not all practices have the same effect. Selecting and implementing the most effective strategies is critical, regardless of learning venue. One framework for organizing blended learning methods is through one-to-one tutoring, especially since instructional practices characteristic of tutoring have an enormous effect on student achievement.

Presenters in this informational session summarize ways instructors merge characteristics of one-to-one tutoring, along with example strategies to enhance blended learning. Participants integrate preferred methods according to their contexts through discussion and small group collaboration.€ƒ


Abdulla, D. (2012). Attitudes of college students enrolled in 2-year health care programs towards online learning. Computers & Education, 59(4), 1215-1223.

Bloom, B. (1984). The 2 sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational Researcher 13(6), 4-16.

Cowan, J. E. (2012). Strategies for developing a community of practice: Nine years of lessons learned in a hybrid technology education master's program. Techtrends, 56(1), 12-18.

Office of Educational Technology (2013). Expanding evidence approaches for learning in a digital world. United Stated Department of Education. Retrieved from

Hew, K., & Cheung, W. (2012). Students' use of asynchronous voice discussion in a blended-learning environment: A study of two undergraduate classes. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 10(4), 360-367.

Kim, J. (2012). A study on learners' perceptional typology and relationships among the learner's types, characteristics, and academic achievement in a blended e-education environment. Computers & Education, 59(2), 304-315.

Nissen, E., & Tea, E. (2012). Going blended: New challenges for second generation L2 tutors. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25(2), 145-163.

Strauss, V. (September, 2012). Three fears about blended learning. The Washington Post.

Wilson, G., & Randall, M. (2012). The implementation and evaluation of a new learning space: A pilot study. Research in Learning Technology, 20(2), 1-17.

Yang, Y. (2012). Blended learning for college students with English reading difficulties. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 25(5), 393-410.

Lead Presenter

David W. Denton, Ed.D, is an Assistant Professor at Seattle Pacific University where he teaches students in the graduate teacher education program. His research interests include instructional technology and assessment. Before joining Seattle Pacific, David taught middle school students for 11 years in a variety of subjects.