Teachers need to find new ways to engage their students in the learning process, while helping them strengthen their academic skills. Peer tutoring is a technique that has been proven to work well with a variety of learners in different classrooms.
Peer tutoring is a teaching strategy wherein students are paired together to practice academic skills and master content. Teachers may use peer tutoring to help accommodate a classroom full of diverse students who need more individualized attention. There are many benefits and challenges of peer tutoring that teachers should consider before implementing such a program in their classrooms.
Benefits of Peer Tutoring
Research literature shows that peer tutoring can be a highly effective teaching method in the classroom. Let’s look at some of the benefits of peer tutoring.
- Peer tutoring allows for higher rates of student response and feedback, which results in better academic achievement.
- Peer tutoring creates more opportunities for students to practice specific skills, which leads to better retention.
- The student tutor gains a deeper understanding of a topic by teaching it to another student.
- Students involved in peer tutoring have shown more positive attitudes toward learning and develop self-confidence.
- Peer tutoring often helps students build relationships and practice appropriate social interaction.
Challenges of Peer Tutoring
Although peer tutoring is strongly supported by research, there are some challenges that should be noted as teachers consider how this might work in their schools.
- Schools and teachers must invest a lot of time to plan and maintain effective programs.
- Parents and students often need to be educated and convinced of the benefits of peer tutoring in order to get their participation.
- In some partnerships the student tutor may not turn out to be an effective teacher, so the student being tutored (tutee) may miss out on good instruction.
Now that we’ve weighed the pros and cons of peer tutoring, let’s explore a few of the different ways peer tutoring may be implemented.
Peer Tutoring Strategies
There are a variety of factors that teachers should be aware of when planning a peer tutoring program. Different schools, classrooms, and teachers are able to provide different types of resources and expertise that will contribute to the success of a peer tutoring program. Keep in mind, the strategies described in this lesson will not work in every situation, with every student, all the time. It is up to you as the teacher to assess these strategies and see what will work for your specific population of students. Peer tutoring is meant to be a flexible and adaptable teaching method, which should allow for some trial and error as you perfect your individual programs.
Selecting Student Partners
Peer tutor partnerships may be designed in a few different ways. Teachers may assign some of their higher achieving students to work with peers in the classroom who are struggling. Or they could assign students with similar abilities to work together, each taking turns being the tutor and tutee. They may also work with other teachers to pair up older students who have mastered the content with younger students who are being introduced to something new; this is known as cross age tutoring.
Regardless of which type of partnership is selected, teachers should plan to hold training sessions for peer tutors to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities. Research indicates that explicitly trained tutors are far more effective in their teaching, and their tutees make significantly more progress. The list below is not comprehensive, but gives some examples of what might be included in a training session.
Training may include:
- Rules for student confidentiality
- How to provide praise for correct responses, and corrective feedback for incorrect responses
- Modeling a peer tutoring session so students have a concrete understanding of what it should look like
- How to take data, or keep track of their partner’s progress
Monitor Tutoring Sessions
While peer tutoring does assist the teacher in delivering effective instruction, it is not a chance for teachers to sit back and take a break. In order for a program to be successful, teachers should be constantly monitoring tutoring sessions. In the beginning, teachers should sit with student partnerships and provide one-on-one feedback to help students improve.
Teachers also should not wait until the end of a program to decide whether it was effective. Consistent progress monitoring will act as a map to help teachers see if they are getting to their destination, or desired outcomes. They should keep track of student progress in specific content areas to determine whether the program is working. If progress is not being made, teachers should modify the rules and procedures right away.
Other Tips and Techniques
Here’s a few more ways you can strengthen your peer tutoring programs:
- Encourage students to establish a positive relationship with their partners in order to make the sessions more enjoyable and productive.
- Teach tutors to use positive reinforcement to encourage their partners, rather than constantly pointing out what they are doing wrong.
- Organize and plan tutoring sessions, which will help students be more successful in carrying out the teacher’s expectations.
- Make sure your students have all the materials they will need, as well as a lesson plan or schedule to follow so they know exactly what to do.
Teachers are constantly looking for engaging ways to help students improve their academic achievement. Peer tutoring is an effective strategy wherein students are paired together to teach and practice academic skills. Whether students are paired by age or ability, research shows that all methods of peer tutoring are effective when the programs are carefully planned and implemented. It is important for teachers to consider all of the benefits, challenges, and components of peer tutoring in order to establish effective programs in their individual classrooms. When programs are successful, teachers will see their students’ academic skills improve, peer relationships strengthen, and self-confidence develop.