Peer tutoring

High impact for low cost, based on extensive evidence.

Cost Per Pupil Cost estimate: Up to £170 per pupil per year. cost per pupil
Evidence Rating Evidence estimate: Three or more rigorous meta-analyses. evidence rating Average impact: + 6 additional months. Impact +6 months

What is it?

A range of approaches in which learners work in pairs or small groups to provide each other with explicit teaching support. In cross-age tutoring an older learner takes the tutoring role and is paired with a younger tutee or tutees. Peer-Assisted Learning is a structured approach for mathematics and reading with sessions of 25-35 minutes two or three times a week. In Reciprocal Peer Tutoring, learners alternate between the role of tutor and tutee. The common characteristic is that learners take on responsibility for aspects of teaching and for evaluating their success. Peer assessment involves the peer tutor providing feedback to children relating to their performance and can have different forms such as reinforcing or correcting aspects of learning.

How effective is it?

The evidence of impact is relatively high (typically equating to about a GCSE grade). The benefits are apparent for both tutor and tutee (particularly in cross-age tutoring), though the approach should be used to supplement or enhance normal teaching, rather than to replace it. There is some evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds and low attaining pupils make the biggest gains.

Though both pupils involved gain, cross-age tutoring appears to offer slightly greater benefit for tutor than tutee. A study of cross-age peer tutoring showed that the lowest attaining pairs actually made most progress, and a two-year gap seems to support both tutee and tutor learning. One way of matching pupils across classes is to match the highest attaining pupil in the older class with the highest attaining child in the younger class through to the lowest attaining pupil in the older class being matched with the lowest attaining pupil in the younger class (making adjustments if necessary). This enables the teacher to focus support on lower attaining pairs.

How secure is the evidence?

The evidence is consistent and positive especially for mathematics and reading and at both primary and secondary school levels.

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What are the costs?

The direct costs of running peer tutoring in schools are low, as few additional materials required (£10-20 per pupil). Professional development and additional support for staff is recommended, particularly in the early stages of setting up a programme. Estimates are about £3,000-£4,000 per class or £200 per pupil indicating low overall costs.

What should I consider?

  • Are the activities sufficiently challenging for the tutee to benefit from the tutor’s support?

  • Will the tutor be able to teach without support from a teacher?

  • Training for staff and tutors are essential ingredients for success. How will you organise sufficient time to train both staff and tutors?

  • How will you organise peer-tutoring to ensure that it enhances classroom learning but does not replace it?

  • How will you build time into your plan to allow tutors to review the success and challenges of their role? This is important to develop their own skills and learning.

  • How will you organise peer tutoring into 4-10 week intensive blocks? This will provide maximum impact for both tutors and tutees.