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 was delivered to Year 5 pupils (age 9 – 10) for 30 – 35 minutes three times a week for 20 weeks.
The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit reports that peer tutoring approaches can have high and cost-effective impacts on pupil attainment. The PALS approach exemplifies a number of common features of effective peer tutoring interventions and has been extensively implemented in the United States, with a number of studies reporting positive effects on pupil outcomes. However, most of these studies have been small-scale and developer-led. This evaluation aimed to provide robust evidence on the impact of PALS in the UK context.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a high proportion of the pupils who started this trial were not included in the final analysis. Outcome testing was also delayed and took place in the context of significant disruption to children’s education brought about by the pandemic. Consequently, there is considerable uncertainty around the results of this trial and they should not be interpreted as robust evidence of the impact of PALS-UK on pupils’ reading. This trial reports that children in PALS-UK schools made the equivalent of one fewer months’ progress in reading, on average, compared to children in other schools. This result has a low EEF security rating, meaning that we have low confidence in this result.
This trial also reports that children in PALS-UK schools who were eligible for Free School Meals made the equivalent of one months’ additional progress in reading, on average. However, there is considerable statistical uncertainty around this result and it should not be interpreted as robust evidence. Data from surveys, interviews and observations of programme delivery suggest that teachers and headteachers perceived the programme positively and found the training, programme resources and ongoing support from the delivery team useful.
Although this was a well-designed randomised control trial, it has been unable to provide robust evidence of the impact of PALS-UK, due to disruption associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the EEF intends to conduct a second efficacy trial of PALS-UK. To read about the second trial click here.