Peer Tutoring Works both Ways

Like self-help, peer tutoring in the schools has multiple benefits that go beyond improved learning. It activates and empowers students (an often underutilized resource in the schools), and it builds an ethos of cooperative values.

While peer tutoring programs typically recognize the impact of tutoring on the tutees, programs of the Peer Research Laboratory emphasize the special benefits for the tutors–learning through teaching (being helped by giving help). The following chart indicates how important the task of teaching someone else is for anyone’s own learning.

WE LEARN:
10% of what we READ
20% what we HEAR
30% of what we SEE
50% of what we both SEE and HEAR
70% of what we DISCUSS with others
80% of what we EXPERIENCE personally
90% of what we TEACH someone else

Some Peer Facts

  • At-risk high school students raised their reading scores almost three years, during a five-month period, as a result of tutoring fourth graders in reading.
  • Peer tutoring is the most cost-effective way to increase math and reading achievement when compared with computer-assisted instruction, reduced class size and lengthened class time.
  • Both peer tutors and students being tutored have reported improved attitudes toward school as a result of their participation.
  • In helping others, tutors reinforce their knowledge and skills, in turn building their self-confidence and self-esteeem.

A New Tutor-Centered Model

The Peer Research Laboratory has designed a new model to answer the question: “If the tutor role is so effective, why not give all students the opportunity to be a tutor?” We’ve applied this model in a number of programs. Here are two examples:

  • At one elementary school, whole classes of students, regardless of academic ability, are tutors to younger students. For example, 6th graders are matched with 3rd graders; 2nd graders tutor kindergartners. This program refocuses the teacher role toward facilitator of the learning process.
  • In a high school program designed to eliminate the “hierarchical” relationship between tutor and tutee, tutees were involved in regular group meetings with tutors for planning, training and support and were offered the opportunity to become tutors the following semester. Compared to students in traditional tutoring programs, these tutees had a higher rate of course completion and had significantly higher grades.

The features of the new model are:

  1. In-depth preparation and training of peer tutors and ongoing reflection on the tutoring process.
  2. All students participate in giving and receiving help, thus removing the negativity usually associated with receiving help.
  3. Being a tutee is preparation for becoming a tutor.
  4. This can lead to the creation of student-centered, peer-focused schools.