Peer Assisted Learning Strategies UK (PALS-UK) is a whole-class, structured peer tutoring intervention aiming to improve pupils’ reading comprehension, oral reading fluency and overall reading attainment. Pupils are paired and take part in four activities: partner reading, re-tell, paragraph shrinking and prediction relay. This project will be delivered to Year 5 pupils (age 9 – 10) for 30 – 35 minutes three times a week for 20 weeks.
This project is led by Dr Emma Vardy (Nottingham Trent University) and Dr Helen Breadmore (University of Birmingham), who provide one day of initial training and one half-day top-up training to Year 5 teachers. Pupils also receive training from their classroom teacher over the first four weeks of the programme, to learn how to undertake the four PALS activities and work collaboratively with their peers.
As part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, the EEF is commissioning a number of efficacy trials of programmes that show promise for increasing pupil attainment. These trials will take place in the Research School Commissioner regions of the North, East Midlands & Humber, West Midlands.
The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit reports that peer tutoring approaches can have positive impacts on pupil outcomes. PALS-UK exemplifies a number of common elements of effective peer tutoring interventions, including the provision of training to both teachers and pupils and the use of structured activities to support high quality peer interactions. PALS-UK also exemplifies elements of another promising strand of the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, reading comprehension strategies. The PALS approach has been extensively implemented in the United States and a number of studies have reported positive impacts on pupil outcomes. However most experimental research of PALS has been small-scale and developer-led. This large randomised controlled trial aims to provide a robust estimate of the impact of PALS-UK on pupils’ reading outcomes.
The EEF previously conducted an efficacy trial of PALS-UK, however, the trial was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the EEF has commissioned this second trial of PALS-UK.
This efficacy trial will be led by a team from Manchester Metropolitan University and will be a two-arm stratified cluster-randomised controlled trial, randomised at the school-level. The aim of the evaluation will be to assess the impact of PALS-UK on pupils’ reading attainment (the primary outcome).
The trial will also evaluate the impact of PALS-UK on pupils’ oral reading fluency and reading self-efficacy (secondary outcomes). An Implementation and Process evaluation will be conducted alongside the impact evaluation to explore how schools implement the programme and stakeholder perceptions of PALS-UK.
The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2024.