Peer tutoring involves students helping each other learn and grow. The concept is strongly endorsed by organizations such as the National Education Association and the National Tutoring Association. Advantages of peer teaching include gains in academic achievement and stronger peer relationships. On the flip side, 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. Peer tutoring should supplement, not replace, quality classroom instruction.
Advantage: Academic Achievement
It is invigorating to watch students teaching each other. Peer tutors learn by teaching the material to a classmate or younger student. Peer tutors are challenged to use and hone their creativity and critical thinking skills to help tutees make sense of new material introduced by the teacher. Students being tutored can ask questions to ensure understanding. For both students, repetition aids retention. Peer tutoring increases motivation and improves the overall academic performance of the class. If you are looking for a way to combat boredom, absenteeism and truancy, peer tutoring is the answer.
Advantage: Personal Growth
Peer tutoring brings the classroom alive with energy and positive attitudes. Students who receive peer tutoring are less likely to fear or detest certain subjects. Peer tutors develop a sense of pride and self-worth knowing they’re capable of making a positive difference in the life of another student. Peer tutoring is also thought to increase self-confidence as tutors and tutees discover they’re capable of mastering difficult assignments and abstract concepts even without the help of the teacher.
Disadvantage: Cost and Time Commitment
Effective peer tutoring programs don’t just happen; they require an investment of time and energy on the part of the school to launch and maintain. Researcher K.J. Topping stressed in a 1996 article in “Higher Education” that peer tutoring requires extensive training of peer tutors, careful matching of tutors to tutees, ongoing supervision and monitoring of progress. Associated costs can involve purchase of peer tutoring program materials and the expense of hiring staff to help teachers implement and manage peer tutoring initiatives. Without support, teachers will have less time for daily lesson planning.
Disadvantage: Resistance and Skepticism
Parents and students may have misgivings about peer tutoring and need convincing that it’s worthwhile. Parents may argue that it’s not the job of students to teach other students. Parents may remain skeptical until evidence is presented that peer tutoring can improve grades and test scores. Student selected as peer tutors may resent the responsibility or lack empathy for struggling peers. If the majority of tutors are from an affluent, privileged background, the disadvantaged students being tutored may feel stereotyped and stigmatized.
- National Education Association: Research Spotlight on Peer Tutoring
- National Tutoring Association: Peer Tutoring Factsheet
- Higher Education: The Effectiveness of Peer Tutoring in Further and Higher Education: A Typology and Review of the Literature; K. J. Topping
- University of South Alabama College of Education: Mutual Peer Tutoring; Greg Sundgaard
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