One of the most important things students can do is get help from their peers when it comes to academic success. Peer tutoring can provide students with the support they need to improve their grades and feel more confident in their academic abilities.
However, not all peer tutoring programs are created equal. Managed peer tutoring programs offer several benefits that make them a better choice for students than unstructured programs. In this post, we'll take a closer look at some of the advantages of managed peer tutoring programs. Keep reading to learn more!
What Is Peer Teaching?
The traditional classroom model for middle and high school students involves an adult instructor teaching young people. These teachers have a mastery-level understanding of the material, and, in most cases, they originally learned the material long in the past. There are clear distinctions between teachers and students in these instructional settings. Teachers are at an entirely different station in life and possess the authority to lead and teach their students.
This model works well in many instances, but it's certainly not the only model for teaching and may not be the best option in some cases. An alternative model for teaching puts students' peers into the instructor role. By "peers," we mean students in a similar position in life. In other words, neither has authority over the other.
When we're looking at school-aged students, this also typically means the peer teacher is in a similar age group as the learning students. However, while these students may be similar in their age and education level in general regarding the subject at hand, the peer teacher has greater understanding and experience than their peer students.
These peer teachers may be especially talented in a certain area and have excelled and progressed more rapidly than their peers. Or, perhaps they have taken classes their peers haven't. Peer teaching can work on small and large scales. When peer teachers are the sole instructors in a class, they can work under the administrative guidance of adults.
Frequently Asked Questions
Peer tutoring allows for higher student response and feedback rates, which results in better academic achievement. It also creates more opportunities for students to practice specific skills, which leads to better retention. In addition, the student-tutor gains a deeper understanding of a topic by teaching it to another student.
Advantages of peer teaching include gains in academic achievement and stronger peer relationships. On the flip side, the disadvantages of peer coaching are that peer tutoring can be ineffective and a burden for teachers if the program is simply an attempt to do more with less in response to budget cuts.
Overall, the introduction of peer tutoring approaches appears to positively impact learning, with an average positive effect equivalent to approximately five additional months' progress. In addition, studies have identified benefits for both tutors and tutees and a wide range of age groups.
Tutoring offers a systematic, structured learning experience in a more individualised way. It also improves the tutee's self-esteem, attitude toward subject matter, academic performance, and personal growth.
It is a method of teaching where a student instructs another student, wherein the former will be an expert and the latter a novice. Through the direct interaction between students, peer teaching promotes active learning and participation within themselves.
Examples Of Peer Learning
If you've never seen peer teaching in action, it can help consider some examples of what students teaching students can look like. So let's take a look at some examples of peer learning:
- A music teacher has the student who has had private trombone lessons give their peers a special lesson on the trombone.
- Senior college partners with a faculty member to lead a first-year year experience course for first-year college students.
- An ESL student helps teach their English-speaking peers how to speak their native language.
- High school students who have learned how to code through a summer course helping their peers learn to code in groups.
- A student whose reading level is higher than their peers leads a discussion group over an assigned reading for English class.
- A fourth-year medical student leads a clinical skills laboratory for other medical students.
These are just a handful of examples of the forms peer teaching can take. In addition, peer teaching can use a variety of formats, from discussion groups facilitated by student leaders to classes entirely taught by peer teachers.
How Kids Learn Through Peer Teaching
When peer teaching is used in a classroom, kids can enjoy an effective and engaging learning experience. However, it's important to note that all kids are different and learn differently to have different responses to peer teaching.
In general, kids can similarly learn from their peers as from adult teachers. Just as adult teachers transfer information to students, peer teachers can also transfer what they know. The difference isn't so much in how they are taught but in who is doing the teaching and the dynamic created. Having a peer as their instructor can foster a different type of dynamic compared to a traditional teacher-student relationship.
Some students feel more comfortable learning from peers and maybe more engaged in their learning. We'll explore the potential benefits of peer learning more in the next section.
What Are the Advantages of Peer Learning?
In recent decades, peer teaching/learning has become increasingly popular in many instructional settings because it has demonstrated several valuable benefits.
For students, peer learning can lead to improved attitudes and a more personalised, engaging, and collaborative learning experience, all of which can lead to higher achievement. In addition, the experience can deepen their understanding of the subject and impart confidence for peer teachers. So let's take a closer look at the benefits of peer teaching.
It Can Improve Students' Attitudes Toward Learning
One of the benefits of peer teaching is that it can positively affect students' attitudes about what they're learning and the learning process in general. According to the International Encyclopaedia of Education, research has shown that collaboration among peers in a learning environment can enhance students' socioemotional development. It includes improving their self-concept and having a better attitude toward learning.
Being taught by a peer can break down barriers for some otherwise disengaged students. For example, having a peer teacher may make some students feel more comfortable and more willing to ask for the help they need. Students may also experience an increased sense of motivation because they are being taught by someone who has managed to learn and is excited about the material. In other words, they have a success story right in front of them to inspire them to achieve the same results.
One study found that peer learners valued that their peer teacher had recently learned the materials and could relate to their experience of learning the material for the first time. Students who may feel disconnected while learning from a teacher who studied the material long ago are likely to appreciate learning from a more relatable peer.
It Can Foster A More Personalised Learning Experience
There is convincing evidence to show that a lower student-to-teacher ratio is beneficial for both teachers and students — especially students in the six to 14 age bracket. It's not hard to see how having more one-on-one attention from a teacher can help individual students excel. In addition, you can do peer teaching in larger groups where peer learners greatly outnumber peer teachers. This model would typically take place in a college lecture scenario.
That said, peer teaching can lend itself well to lower student-to-teacher ratios, where either a single student teacher is leading a small group of students or multiple student teachers are helping to lead a larger class. With this model, peer instructors can check on students individually, answer questions, and assist each student in the way they need. It may mean explaining the material differently or walking students through a process individually.
This type of personalised learning or peer tutoring can help students progress in a subject more quickly and develop a stronger handle on the material than they might have in a large group setting with a single teacher.
It Engages Students Through Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is distinct from two other learning structures: individualised and competitive learning. In the case of cooperative learning, students work together, each contributing what they can to help improve their understanding of a subject. Typically, cooperative learning involves having students of different ability levels work together in groups.
A peer-to-peer learning dynamic lends itself naturally to a collaborative classroom environment. In addition, cooperative learning is inherently student-centred, so it makes sense that one of the best ways to create an engaging and cooperative learning experience is in a classroom for students and led by students.
This learning structure actively engages students in the learning process because it encourages each student to feel more ownership over their education. Research shows that cooperative learning can contribute to enhanced productivity and achievement and more supportive relationships between peers, along with improvements in self-esteem and overall mental and emotional wellbeing. When students feel like they're on the same team and working toward a common goal, exciting things can happen in a classroom.
It Can Lead To Higher Academic Achievement
Another reason some educational programs choose to implement student teaching because it may lead to higher academic achievement for students. Research on how peer teaching impacts student achievement is unclear, mostly because research on this direct connection is limited. There are so many factors that can affect a student's level of achievement.
That said, when students are more engaged in the learning process, more motivated, and have received more individualised assistance, it's easy to see why they are likely to succeed. For some students, being more engaged by a peer teacher can make a difference in helping them develop a strong handle on the material and feel the motivation they need to do their best.
Higher achievement is especially likely if a peer learning model prioritises small class sizes or low student-to-teacher ratios. It helps to ensure that each student receives individualised help. More individualised instruction also makes it more likely for students with a natural talent to excel beyond the common learning goals of the course.
It Can Help Peer Teachers Gain Confidence And Sharpen Their Skills
It's also important to note that peer teaching is not a one-way exchange. Peer teachers can also experience benefits from engaging in the peer learning process. If you've ever taught a concept or skill to a friend, you may have noticed how this act of teaching helped you brush up on information or sharpen your skills.
There is a wealth of research to show that teaching something is an effective way to enhance your understanding of the material. It means student teachers can sharpen their knowledge by transferring their skills to peers. As they prepare lessons, answer questions, provide demonstrations, and more, peer leaders can develop a deeper understanding of the material. They may even learn something new from another peer teacher or a peer student.
Research also shows other benefits for peer teachers. For example, developing lessons and working in an instructor role can help them grow in creativity, independence, and self-confidence, among other things. In addition, some peer teachers may have their excitement and inspiration surrounding a certain content area or skill revitalised by bringing it alive for other students.
Peer Tutors Can Serve As Role Models. Sure, professors can be role models for what students can become "one day." Peer tutors allow students to see what they can accomplish soon. It can increase students' self-efficacy or believe they can be successful. Students who believe in themselves are more likely to put in the work they need to improve academically. Students who do improve due to peer tutoring may be more inclined to give back to their college communities, such as by tutoring or future mentoring students, as they grow more comfortable in their skin and confident in their skills.
One of my friends initially struggled with organic chemistry, but a peer tutor helped her get an A. She became a peer tutor in this subject herself, which she found fun and rewarding. She is now a doctor, making her alma mater proud!
Peer Tutoring Has Motivational Benefits, and it has been associated with lower test anxiety and higher student engagement in the learning process. In other words, quality peer tutoring can make students feel less intimidated by the material they are studying and more likely to engage with it deeply, including through in-class discussions or simply in their studying and research. Students who are more active and engaged learners can better contribute to the college community both inside and outside the classroom.
Peer Tutoring Takes Away The Stigma Of Asking For Help. Students may be more inclined to seek other forms of academic support, such as by going to faculty office hours or the school's writing centre, if they see that getting help is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. In the process, some of these students may find themselves with faculty mentors who can grant them new opportunities, such as research assistantships or internships.
Peer Tutors Can Help Their Tutees Become Better Learners. Peer tutors can also give students insights into navigating their academic and personal responsibilities, including useful study and time management strategies. For example, the parent of one student I worked with said that I helped him with maths and the overall way he approaches his studying. Students who develop better learning habits are more likely to do well both in school and their careers. And students with fulfilling careers often give back to their alma maters with donations that allow them to build facilities, implement new programs and recruit or support underserved populations.
I should note that not just the tutees benefit from peer tutoring. The tutors, who are college students, can also refine their subject matter expertise. At its best, the peer tutoring relationship is a mini learning community in which both parties learn from each other.
For example, when I tutor maths, it always excites me when a student shows me a new way of solving a problem I had never considered, allowing me to tweak my instruction for other students based on my newfound knowledge. Tutors can also improve their communication skills, develop empathy and find a sense of purpose.
When I used to tutor my friends as a high school or college student, it made me feel proud to help my classmates succeed. Even though my students weren't paying me, the reward was seeing them earn higher grades and become more confident individuals. I remember one instance in which I spent many hours informally tutoring one of my classmates in our college biology class for nonmajors. She was so grateful for my help that she bought me coffee one day since she couldn't afford to pay me and insisted that I accept it. That I could make someone's life just a little bit less stressful was extremely gratifying. As an added perk, explaining and discussing the concepts helped me better solidify my understanding of the material.
If colleges want their students to thrive, instituting formal peer tutoring programs seems like a no-brainer that you can do at relatively little cost. Peer tutoring programs in colleges have been documented since the 18th century. They have grown increasingly popular in recent years, with hundreds of institutions having some form of peer tutoring or peer learning.
Peer tutoring programs effectively provide academic support for students, but they do require some outside help. Managed peer-tutoring programs offer the benefits of one on one attention with a low student to tutor ratio in what is typically referred to as "crowdsourced learning" or collaborative education models. In addition, tutors who participate in these programs often receive training and guidance from experts so that their efforts can be most beneficial for learners.