Teacher as Researcher. Cross-Age Peer Tutoring


Tutorials are considered an effective form for teaching a student, especially in cases when the student has been determined to have special needs. Tutoring incorporates instructional materials and information that are custom-made to the student’s learning rate and level of comprehension. In addition, tutoring allows the tutor to determine whether the student can grasp the subject through a feedback mechanism. Should there be a need to correct or encourage a student, sufficient time is allowed because tutoring is a personal method of instruction.

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Another feature that facilitates learning through tutorials is that this method involves emotional involvement and it is easier for both student and tutor to determine whether the interaction is productive or not. Students are also given the chance to proceed at their paces and not feel any intimidation from other competitive students.

Tutoring is generally classified according to the age difference of the student and the tutor. Peer tutoring thus pertains to the instruction of a student who is at the same age range as that of the tutor. On the other hand, cross-age tutoring pertains to the form of personal instruction that involves an older tutor and a younger student (Schneider and Barone, 1997). Peer tutoring has caught the interest of educators and analysts as well because its practice suggests that the age difference between tutor and student is not the major criteria for an effective tutorial. Interestingly, it has also been observed that younger tutors reap more positive results in tutoring than older tutors (Luca and Clarkson, 2002). One plausible reason for such discrepancy is that young tutors can relate to the problems and difficulties that students encounter during their studies and thus they can immediately provide aid and other helpful hints that would show the student how to approach educational exercises and concepts. In addition, the same age range of both tutor and student lessens the intimidation of the student and allows them to approach their tutor without the feeling of embarrassment.

Another interesting observation regarding peer tutoring is that students can sense whether a classmate or peer is experiencing difficulty with a certain topic or subject (Fuchs et al., 2002). Such sensitivity is detected by simple nonverbal actions and thus this capacity is far more beneficial in assisting students in their learning process. Difficulties in learning among students are often neglected by older tutors and they have no other method to determine if a student is struggling in a course unless they see that their test scores are very low. It has been observed that peer tutors who earlier struggled during their studies are more patient with their tutors because they could understand what the student is experiencing. On the other hand, cross-age tutors carry high expectations from their students, and this lack of empathy further causes issues in the student’s learning process (Gaustad, 1992).

The employment of tutoring, both peer and cross-age, has augmented the atmosphere in schools because these personal forms of instruction reduced the sense of competition among students in a classroom. In addition, the personal support that the students receive during tutorials decreases the chances that the student will encounter disapproval and discouragement in the actual classroom setting (Eggers, 1995).

It has been reported that peer tutoring benefits both parties, wherein the student not only receives some form of teaching but that the peer tutor himself is honed into the subject and becomes more specialized and adept with the course (Allen, 1976). As it has long been observed that practice enhances one’s capabilities, the same philosophy may be applied to peer tutoring. A peer tutor also needs to prepare his teaching materials before the actual tutorial itself and this preparation enhance the tutor’s retention of the material that he is to teach to his student. In addition, the peer tutor is also provided with an opportunity to integrate both instructional materials and other supportive techniques that will help both the tutor himself and the student in addressing exercises that are related to the topic of study. The communication skills of a tutor are also improved when he is subjected to teaching a student. Not only is his knowledge of the subject area used in tutoring, but he is also placed in a situation where interaction is the key aspect of instruction.

A mutual relationship is involved in peer and cross-age tutoring, wherein the self-esteem of the tutor increases when their student learns and improves his knowledge and learning skills. Such meaningful and worthwhile effect on the tutor is priceless and this feeling helps them to continue what they do for the next students that come in. However, caution should also be exercised between a tutor and a student because not all combinations result in positive learning. Tutors who are knowledgeable of the subject area yet are not trained for teaching may not be effective enough in teaching a student. In these cases, tutors are impatient with the slowness of the student’s pace and this may be coupled with different forms of punishment and penalties. There are also instances when a tutor would not accept a student who is of his age range, although he is capable of teaching a student of any age. Such selection of students may thus influence which students will be able to receive personal instruction and thus tutors should be trained to instruct almost any age of the student, as long as the student is willing to learn and interact with the tutor.

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Allen VL (1976): Children as teachers: Theory and research on tutoring. New York: Academic Press, 276 pages.

Eggers JE (1995): Pause, prompt, and praise: Cross-Age tutoring. Teaching Children Mathematics. 2(4):216-218.

Fuchs LS, Fuchs D, Yazdian L and Powell SR (2002): Enhancing first-grade children’s mathematical development with peer-assisted learning strategies. Sch. Psychol. Rev. 31(4):569-572.

Gaustad J (1992): Tutoring for at-risk students. Oreg. Sch. Study Coun. Bull. Eugene, Oregon: Oregon School Study Council, 74 pages.

Luca J and Clarkson B (2002): Promoting student learning through peer tutoring- A case study. Proc. World Conf. Educ. Multimed, Hypermedia. Telecomm., 7 pages.

Schneider RB and Barone D (1997): Cross-age tutoring. Childhood Education, 73:136-139.

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