COLLEGES that do best by students are those which stick to traditional teaching methods, new research has revealed.
Computers, distance learning and self-study methods are no substitute for face-to-face contact and personal tutoring, the study of 86 further education colleges shows.
Colleges with most success in raising standards and cutting drop-out rates were those that put students first and struck the right balance between high expectations and deepening motivation.
Overwhelming evidence has emerged in the first round of projects for Raising Quality and Achievement - a programme developed by the Learning and Skills Development Agency and the Association of Colleges as part of the Government's standards programme.
Colleges were invited to submit "successful" case studies on improving achievement and retention. The details are published in College Improvement: the Voice of Teachers and Managers.
More than half (58 per cent) of the case study colleges highlighted tutoring as the key to improvement. One-third (34 per cent) cited strategies related to curriculum design and teaching. A quarter offered additional learning support, while one in five used target-setting and value-added approaches.
Personal tutoring was seen as the most efficient way of establishing a solid and lasting relationship between the student and college. A quarter of the colleges focused on monitoring attendance and following up absences.
Less frequently reported strategies were induction, student motivation, learning styles, guidance, student mentoring, student preparation, management information systems and quality assurance.
Dr Paul Martinez, development advisor for the Learning and Development Agency in Nottingham and the report's author, said success depended on teachers and managers believing they really could improve things, and a willingness to put the student first.
Free copies of the report and case studies can be obtained by calling the Learning and Skills Development Agency on 020 7840 5400 or by visiting www.rqa.org.uk