Is it better to teach 1to1 or in larger groups?

Is it better to teach 1to1 or in larger groups?

Diary submitted by Charlotte M., Madrid


There are many differences between teaching someone one-on-one compared to teaching a larger class, even if it is only two students. Although I tend to think that larger classes can be incredibly difficult to teach, it is also worth noting that one-on-one classes have their own set challenges to overcome. While it can be exhausting to motivate an entire group of people, encouraging all of them to speak and express their opinions; sometimes it is equally as difficult to make a student comfortable when you are teaching them on their own.

On one hand preparing for a class of students can take a lot more material and energy, especially during a speaking class. In my personal experience, I found larger groups more likely to be apathetic, meaning that they will stare blankly at you, waiting for someone else to answer. To me, this apathy can be led by two factors. Firstly, it can be challenging to for some students to participate in front of their peers: they are often afraid of making mistakes (though they are essential to learning). This can result in having a completely silent class who seem to refuse to respond to any question or prompt offered by the teacher. It can sometimes feel like the students for a single body, a wall, that can be challenging to break through.

TEFL Trainer

On the other hand, however, one-on-on classes tend to feel slightly less formal, as they can recreate a conversational situation, often encouraging the students to participate without being scared of making mistakes. Moreover, since they are on their own, they know no one else can answer for them. As a result, many studies have shown that tutoring, meaning classes of 1 to 3 students, is the most effective way of teaching. According to a research led Benjamin Bloom, who compared tutoring to teaching in larger classes, it was found that “the average student under tutoring was about 2 standard deviations above the average of the control class” (p.1) However, a class alone can put the student under a lot of pressure. If the student is rather shy, or simply has a lack of motivation (because they are being forced to learn English by a parent or job that requires a certain level of English qualification), it can quickly become an uncomfortable situation, making them feel forced to talk, while they are far from relaxed. This is not a very positive environment for learning.

Finally, I found that teaching classes of 2 to 3 students provides the best conditions for teaching. Indeed, each student has time to get individual guidance from the teacher, allowing them to get a personalised lesson based on their own difficulties. Moreover, they are surrounded by people, usually of similar age and situation, who are being put in the exact situation as them, helping to make them less uncomfortable, while maintaining somewhat informal and conversational situation. This last point helps to create a more dynamic class, where the students can debate ideas between themselves, help one another find vocabulary, and bounce off each other’s ideas. Unlike types other classes, groups of two or three can work regardless of the students’ personalities and ages: in my opinion it is a very a very healthy environment for learning.



  • 1 BENJAMIN S. BLOOM, “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring” , Educational Researcher , Vol 13, Issue 6, pp. 4 – 16