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.
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.
- 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!
From the combined experience of all teachers who have used peer tutoring at KSA, here are our must-haves to make it a success:
- Tutors and tutees are given training on how peer tutoring works;
- When tutoring is taking place, peer tutors are given a lesson plan by the teacher that they run through with their tutee;
- Tutees are given a lesson pack and necessary resources that they work on as directed by their tutor;
- 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;
- Tutors are explicitly told to be welcoming and praise their tutee; and
- 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.
- Run through the purpose and benefits of tutoring
- Run through the scenarios that may come up for tutors and for tutees
- 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:
- The normal whole class starter
- (Maybe a mental maths warm-up)
- A link between what they learned previously to what they’re learning today and tomorrow.
- A walk-through of today’s lesson
- 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.
- Then peer tutoring begins, possibly with a reshuffle of seating order to place the carefully matched tutors and tutees together.
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
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:
- Dixon’s Trinity Academy – Times Tables Coaches
- Marple Hall School – Academic support
- Hatcham College – TECH Scheme
Peer Tutoring Zip File – contains the training materials, head tutor monitoring form and several examples of lesson plans and work packs.