Peer Tutoring: A Proactive Intervention for the Classroom

Peer tutoring is an organized learning experience in which one student serves as the teacher or tutor, and one is the learner or tutee. It gives students an opportunity to use their knowledge in a meaningful social experience. Tutors reinforce their own learning by reviewing and reformulating their knowledge. Tutees gain one-on-one attention. Both tutors and tutees gain self-confidence, the tutor by seeing self competence in his or her ability to help someone and the tutee by receiving positive reinforcement from peers.

Who should be a tutor?

All students with some level of responsibility should be given the opportunity to be tutors. Research has shown that the achievement level of the tutor does not matter in terms of tutee gains.

How do I train tutors?

To have a successful peer-tutoring program, tutors do need to be trained. Basing a tutor training program on the following method has been shown to produce effective peer tutors:

  1. Positive verbal feedback:Teach your tutors the importance of positive verbal feedback. Prompt students to come up with a list of standard statements which they feel may be positively reinforcing. They also need to be taught how much positive feedback to give. Giving feedback after each and every response can take too much time and diminish its effect. Teach tutors to give genuine praise after every third or fourth correct response and after particularly difficult problems. Make sure to have them practice.
  2. Corrective feedback: Teach your tutors how to respond when an incorrect answer is given. When an incorrect answer is given, the tutor should promptly give and explain the correct answer without being critical of the tutee, and then give the tutee an opportunity to repeat the correct answer.
  3. Modeling by you, the teacher: Model these behaviors for the tutors-in-training. Give correct and incorrect examples of how to give positive and corrective feedback. This is a good opportunity for the tutors to ask any questions they may have.
  4. Role-playing between teacher and tutors: Role- play the tutoring process with each tutor, alternately playing the role of both tutor and tutee. This is a good time for those observing to practice using their positive and corrective feedback knowledge, to give suggestions, and to share any ideas for improvement.
  5. Role-playing between students: This is identical to the role-playing between teacher and tutors except that, in this step, the teacher observes and coaches tutors.

How do I initiate peer tutoring?

Tutor-training, including those components listed above, should take place over several sessions so that the tutors have plenty of opportunity to practice and begin to feel comfortable. It will probably also be necessary to provide assistance during the onset of tutoring.

It is important that the tutor is trained specifically for each type of activity or topic they will be tutoring. The tutor should understand, for example, how to use the flashcards, what the rules of the game are, or other activity specific knowledge.

What are some ideas for using peer-tutoring?

Peer tutoring is most effective with drill and practice activities rather than with the introduction of new information. Reading books, writing stories, practicing math flash cards and solving word problems are all great activities. Just about any kind of seat work can be worked on in tutor-tutee pairs. With a little creativity on the part of both teachers and students, games and activities can be adapted to learning tasks for tutors and tutees.

Should I monitor progress?

Monitoring the effectiveness and productivity of tutoring sessions is necessary in motivating students. This can be accomplished by quizzing students on the material they have covered, having them turn in their work, or having students monitor themselves, for example, by having the tutor keep track of correct and incorrect answers by making marks on a card. The results from each monitoring card from a tutoring session can then be used to fill in a progress chart which, over time, will be an indicator of progress.

How should I deliver reinforcement?

Reinforcers should be given to reward productive tutoring sessions and to motivate students. The reinforcement schedule can be based on the amount of work completed and how much of that is completed correctly; student self-monitoring cards can be very useful in keeping track of this aspect of the program. It is important to distribute reinforcers equally to both the tutor and tutee, whether they are edibles or a preferred activity for the student.

Final points on peer tutoring

Not all tutor-tutee pairs will work well together. And, while pairs may need to be changed, it is not necessary that they are homogeneous. Students can benefit socially from a partner who has a different gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Not every method will work for every student in every situation. While peer-tutoring can not replace direct teacher instruction, it is a tool which can strongly enhance the students’ overall achievement. In addition, it is inexpensive and relatively easy to implement.

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