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Peer Tutoring: King Solomon Academy, tips and resources

Long before the Education Endowment Foundation’s Toolkit found that peer tutoring can add 6 more months of learning progress, I faced a problem that only peer tutoring could solve.
All keystage 3 classes at King Solomon Academy are taught in mixed-ability form groups. Anyone teaching year 7 maths knows that pupils arrive from primary school with differing amounts of prior knowledge. So how do you teach (a mastery curriculum) when half the class are reasonably secure on the material and half the class are steps behind? How do you make the gap smaller not larger?

For me the answer was to get them teaching each other – peer tutoring.

It is more than simply pupils working in pairs

It’s structured teaching and learning time during which the pupil nominated as the tutor is accountable for the learning of their tutee. Peer tutoring can take place in lessons (same-age tutors) or in a designated tutoring slot usually using cross-age tutor-tutee pairings. See good examples of other schools using peer tutoring below.

Nice but codswallop.

Nice but codswallop.

Evidence
There is formal research evidence that the Education Endowment Foundation has compiled in support of peer tutoring.

Whatever you do, don’t quote the widely propagated “You remember 90% of what you teach” line as the ResearchEd gods will sacrifice you on the Altar of Pseudoscience. As handy as the figure is, it’s been debunked over and over.

Benefits

  • Progress and attainment – The exam data from these year groups has shown that both tutors AND tutees are benefiting from the time they spend peer tutoring (approx 3 hours a week). Tutees benefit enormously from having another young person to support them and also from instant performance feedback; and tutors show faster progress from the new depth to which they come to understand the topic.
  • Culture – Peer tutoring is a key tool to close the gap in our mixed ability KS3 maths classes but what makes it a win-win is that it’s also great for team culture and for maths culture. Pupils grasp the opportunity to support their teammates with both hands, and that sets up a lovely dynamic in the class; plus they’re all absorbed for up to 45 minutes in a maths conversation, which is a thing of beauty itself!

Tips

From the combined experience of all teachers who have used peer tutoring at KSA, here are our must-haves to make it a success:

  1. Tutors and tutees are given training on how peer tutoring works;
  2. When tutoring is taking place, peer tutors are given a lesson plan by the teacher that they run through with their tutee;
  3. Tutees are given a lesson pack and necessary resources that they work on as directed by their tutor;
  4. Tutees do a timed pre-tutoring quiz at the beginning of the session and a similar post-tutoring quiz at the end. Tutors are reminded to feel responsible for the improvement between pre- and post-tutoring scores;
  5. Tutors are explicitly told to be welcoming and praise their tutee; and
  6. A pupil in the class is nominated to be the Head Peer Tutor. She moves around from pair to pair assisting the tutors and the teacher as necessary. Their role extends to gathering pre- and post-tutoring scores and feeding back to the class on how the pairs were working together.

Training for tutors and tutees – training workpack available in the zipfile below.

  1. Run through the purpose and benefits of tutoring
  2. Run through the scenarios that may come up for tutors and for tutees
  3. Award a certificate

Tutor Lesson Plans – examples available in the zipfile below.

  • The lesson plan begins with an explicit reminder to greet their tutee and tell them what they’re learning today
  • Detailed instructions are written down for the tutees to read…almost blow-by-blow for younger tutors
  • Diagrams or models may help the tutor help the tutee
  • Copy the questions that the tutee is going to do into the tutor‘s lesson plan so that the tutor can do them while the tutee is doing them (independently). This gives the tutor a self-made mark scheme and puts them in the mindset of how to tackle those questions.
  • Emphasis anything you want tutors to emphasise
  • Put back-up resources at their fingertips, e.g. concrete manipulatives to help model to the tutee, scrap paper for workings, mini whiteboard, extension material

Head Tutor – monitoring form available in the zipfile below.
She moves around from pair to pair assisting the tutors and the teacher as necessary – it could be handing out resources, handling questions that the tutor can’t answer or mediating between a squarelling pair (very rarely).

Their role extends to gathering pre- and post-tutoring scores and feeding back to the class on how the pairs were working together.

Running a Peer Tutoring Session

  • After spending a lesson doing the training and earning the certificate, I would make the next two or three lessons peer tutoring lessons to allow the peer tutoring skills to be learned and practised.
  • A peer tutoring session to me looks like this:
    1. The normal whole class starter
    2. (Maybe a mental maths warm-up)
    3. A link between what they learned previously to what they’re learning today and tomorrow.
    4. A walk-through of today’s lesson
    5. A reminder of key peer tutoring skills, particularly how we’re supposed to be during certain scenarios (refer back to the ones in training)That lot should only take 10 minutes.
    6. Then peer tutoring begins, possibly with a reshuffle of seating order to place the carefully matched tutors and tutees together.
    7. Peer tutoring begins with the greeting and is followed by the pre-tutoring quiz, tutoring and the post-tutoring quiz. I’d give this up to 45 mins.
    8. I like to allow ample time (6-10mins) at the end for the Head Peer Tutor to run through the progress made by each tutee today and give shout-outs for the pairs doing really well

Pairings

  • Generally a higher attainer with a lower. Some people ask whether it should be the highest with the lowest (a sort of pincer arrangement). Or the highest attaining tutor with the highest attaining tutee.

    The answer for me is a mixture of those. The main things I’m thinking about are, which pairings will lead to the most productive sessions.
  • On whether to change the pairings, the answer is yes. You might change them for behaviour reasons, for playing-to-strength reasons, because change is helpful sometimes or because it’s good to give the tutees a shot at tutoring (most of them anyway).

Other schools
I’ve not done much cross-age tutoring as it’s all been intra-class. So for good examples of schools that have, take a look at:

Resources

Peer Tutoring Zip File – contains the training materials, head tutor monitoring form and several examples of lesson plans and work packs.

Credit to the KSA maths team who contributed to these resources: @samdolan, @kris_boulton, @povemeister

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4 Thoughts on “Peer Tutoring: King Solomon Academy, tips and resources

  1. primaryprowess on January 31, 2015 at said:

    do you do this is normal lesson time or as a extra?
    I think this is a great idea but I am so torn. Not just about this but about mixed ability maths teaching in general. The socialist in me says – yay – close the gap. Those who have plenty of skill share those with those who have less. A sort of ‘taxation’ on knowledge redistributing in favour of the knowledge poor. But then again I look at our most confident year 6 kids happily y=mx+c -ing and manipulating algebra etc and I really hope to God they won’t have to sit through two more years of percentages, fractions ratio and proportion and baby algebra when they are ready for the ks4 curriculum probably. Rich and sophisticated problem solving is good but seriously – are they to encounter no new content until year 9? also hard to sell to the parents of the knowledge rich. (Including, it has to be said, myself as parent). I would have gone slightly mad had my sons not been put into top set in year 7 – but maybe that’s because I’ve never encountered good mixed ability teaching that really does stretch and challenge to tops whilst at the same time addressing the gaps in those who struggle. We even have them in ability groups in nursery! although we know the research and are trying to move over to children choosing their own level of challenge from a menu of difficulty but (almost) every fibre of my being rebels against this.

  2. I think the power of this is that it makes within-set differences in understanding more apparent. I’m going to do this in a streamed year 9 class (Set 4 of 10) where there is at least 1 NC level of difference in achievement. Will report back. And don’t forget how being the tutor REALLY helps too, although I see your point in Y6 mixed ability.

  3. Pingback: Math(s) Teachers at Play – 83rd Edition | cavmaths

  4. From: http://www.york.ac.uk/iee/uk-research/teaching-and-learning/peer-paired-maths/
    Paired maths focuses on pairs of pupils working together and solving maths questions in three main steps:

    Understanding the question
    Finding an answer to the question
    Finishing the question by asking themselves what have they done and how it links to things they have done in the past
    To facilitate this discussion, we propose the following strategies:

    Understanding the question
    Read: Your tutee might be having trouble reading a word question. If so, read it for them.
    Identify: Make sure that your tutee understands what the question is asking
    To help this happen encourage them to use fingers, counters, cubes, sticks or any other objects to show the reality of the question;
    Or have them draw dots, a picture, a list, table, diagram, graph or map; Useful things to help might include a number line, a multiplication matrix, and a place value chart;
    With your tutee’s permission, mark their written working out with lines, arrows, colours, or numbering to help them;
    Have your tutee think of what they have learned before or questions they have solved before, relevant to the current question;
    Work through a similar but simpler question;
    How can this question be related to people, places, events and experiences in the life of the tutee? (or those of someone they know or have seen on television);
    Make up a similar question using the pupil’s own name;
    Try to use everyday language.

    Listen: Give your tutee time to think about the question and then ask them to explain how they might solve it.
    Do not just jump in to fix what you assume the problem is.

    Finding an answer to the question
    Question: Ask helpful and intelligent questions that give clues, to stimulate and guide your tutees thinking. Challenge things that you think are wrong.
    However, do not say “that’s wrong!” – ask another question to give a clue. Ask “why?”

    Try to avoid:
    Closed questions which require only a yes or no answer;
    Questions which just rely on memory;
    Questions which contain the answer;
    The question “Did you understand that?”;
    Answering your own questions;
    Indicating the “difficulty” of any step.
    Examples of questions you may want to ask are:
    “What kind of question is this?”
    “What are we trying to find out here?”
    “Can you state the question in different words or a different way?”
    “What important information do we already have?”
    “Can we break the question into parts or steps?”
    “How did you arrive at that?”
    “Does that make sense?”
    “Where was the last place you knew you were right?”
    “Where do you think you might have gone wrong?”
    “What kind of mistake do you think you might have made?”
    Praise: Give your tutee praise and encouragement very often, even for a very small success with a single step in solving a question. Keep their confidence high.
    Think out loud: Give your tutee some thinking time, before expecting an answer. Encourage them to tell you what they are thinking all the time. Then you will find out where and how they are going wrong. Remember tutors also need time to think! If you are not sure, say so. You are not supposed to know everything.
    Finishing the question by asking themselves what have they done and how it links to things they have done in the past
    Check: Check that your tutee eventually gets the right answer. But remember there is probably more than one “right” way to solve the question.
    If the answer is wrong read the question over and try again. Only if all else fails show your tutee how you would do it (while you think out loud).

    Sum-it-up: Have your tutee summarise the key steps in doing the maths question. Point out any errors or gaps, then summarise the key steps to yourself.
    Link-it-up: The tutor and tutee should talk about how the learning might be used to do another similar question (generalize it to another maths question) or how the learning might be useful in a wider context.

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