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Peer tutoring

Seema Sircar discovered that peer tutoring could be a powerful learning and teaching tool.

Biology Teacher, Aberdeen

My maths teacher in S1 at school was the most relaxed and effective teacher I had. I looked forward every morning to the first two periods of his class.

When I became a teacher, I considered what had made him so effective. He never seemed to rush through the course like most of us do, yet would manage to finish before us with plenty of time for revision.

His class management was perfect: none of us misbehaved or were diverted from what we were supposed to do in class. He never shouted. There was no ICT, video or smartboards to keep us occupied and amused. So, how did he do it?

I came to realise that it was because he had paired us up well in the classroom: a weak maths pupil with a more competent maths pupil, and then encouraged peer tutoring.

How it works

After he had explained a maths problem to the class, it was our turn to solve it. Anyone struggling would be paired with others who were doing better. Peers corrected and explained queries to each other.

I tried this strategy in my teaching practice, and it worked.

I realised that, at times, I was unable to explain things in simple terms and was making things more complicated for some pupils. Peers explain things to each other in very simple terms and in their own language.

The effect of peer tutoring

It initially came as a shock to some pupils when I asked then to relate to their classmates who hadn't understood. But, after settling into peer tutoring, the self-esteem and confidence of all the pupils was noticeably boosted.

Now, like my maths teacher, I felt more relaxed in the classroom. Introducing peer assessment helped me overcome behavioural problems in class as pupils were engaged in an adult-like activity, which made them feel trusted and valued.