Peer Tutoring As An Instructional Strategy

Peer-mediated instruction, or peer tutoring, is generally accepted as a strongly research-based, and increasingly popular, teaching technique that has positive impact on both mainstream and Learning Disabled students. While the structure of peer tutoring can take many forms, generally the teacher provides the new content of a lesson and then structures the class so that students can drill the information in small groups. Students need expectations demonstrated for their peer teaching; in other words, how to effectively ask questions and provide feedback. This technique is an effective way for students to teach and practice what they have learned to solidify their understanding, while gaining more one-on-one discussion and attention. Additionally, this instructional practice provides an opportunity for positive social interactions and content mastery. Teachers can purposely match mainstream students and students with Learning Disabilities to foster social interaction and learning from one another.

In one type of peer tutoring, called classwide peer tutoring (CWPT), all of the students in the classroom are actively teaching/learning in small groups for an extended period of time. According to the study conducted by Reddy in the article "Peer Tutoring for Health and Safety," research has shown CWPT to be effective for a variety of age groups, and types of specific learning disabilitiess, as well as other exceptionalities, such as autism, developmental disabilities, mild retardation, behavior disorders, ADD, etc (Reddy, pg. 45). In this particular study, the goal was to teach health and safety to special education students, so that they had access to this vital information. Teachers went through a 1/2 day training session, and students were taught tutoring procedures in four short sessions. Ultimately, students with and without learning disabilities were able to work with one another to learn the health and safety material. This contributed to all students feeling actively engaged in the process and increased peer support and opportunities for success, while also increasing positive social interactions among students.

As an art teacher, peer tutoring is a highly effective way for students to learn. In my experience in the art classroom, fear of judgment and failure often shows up more strongly than other subject areas. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the student's mastery of the subject matter is so clearly illustrated in a visual manner. I've found that students working together, offering constructive feedback and sharing ideas, can often prove the most motivational and effective for student learning. The challenge is to find ways that every student can be an "expert" and teach the others in small groups. While some students have a quicker mastery of formal art techniques, I can employ other students to teach art history concepts, abstract art techniques, or practical applications of art within other subject areas.

Reddy, S.S., Utley, C.A., Delquadri, J.C., Mortweet, S.L., et al (1999). Peer Tutoring for Health and Safety. Teaching Exceptional Children, 31 (3), 44 - 53.

Note: This Page was contributed by Allison Aboud