Peer tutoring involves one student helping another student to learn and master some aspect of the curriculum. One student (the tutor) helps another student (the tutee) to master something that they have not yet mastered in class.
Why Use Peer Tutoring?
Peer tutoring helps students to make more academic progress than they would without it. Furthermore, it has more impact than expensive interventions such as Reading Recovery and organisational headaches such as parental volunteers.
The obvious aim of peer tutoring is to help the child who has not yet mastered some particular material or skill. Peer tutoring allows these students to receive:
- Individual instruction matched to their specific needs.
- Guided practice, with prompting as needed.
- Immediate feedback, so they can refine their understanding as needed.
However, research has shown that it also helps the students acting tutors to deepen their own understanding. It seems having to teach someone else forces you to clarify things in your own mind.
We learn more when we are asked to teach it.
Peer Tutoring is Part of a Parcel of Teaching Strategies
Peer tutoring works, but not in a vacuum.
It does not replace whole-class instruction or individual work. Rather, it provides a way of helping students when these two things have not been enough for them to master the material at hand.
What Do the Tutors Actually Do?
The tutor can use a wide range of strategies, including:
- Telling the tutee things they need to know.
- Explaining things their tutee needs to understand.
- Demonstrating things the tutee must be able to do.
- Setting practice questions for the tutee to do.
- Providing feedback on their tutee’s responses.
- Clarifying any misunderstandings that may become apparent.
Research shows that peer tutoring is quite effective. However, it also reveals that some approaches to peer tutoring are more than twice as effective as other approaches.
The 5 Keys to Doubling the Impact of Peer Tutoring
Simply by including 3 or more of the following, you will have a much larger impact on your students’ results.
- Teacher-formed pairings. This allows you to ensure that tutors have the adequate levels of mastery and that the two students are likely to work well together.
- Structured interventions, where students are clear about what the tutee must achieve, what you expect them to do and how you expect them to do it.
- Personalized curricula, matched to students’ current levels of mastery and understanding.
- Assessment of the tutee’s new level of mastery, as opposed to no assessment or normative assessment.
- Earned Rewards, where both students earn some form of reward if the tutee demonstrates they have mastered the material.