When my grad professor asked me “Why peer tutoring?” My first thought was, “Why NOT peer tutoring?” But I know that’s not the best of answers. So, I decided to write a post explaining myself and then I’ll know what to say to him tomorrow when I walk into his office!
First, I think that teachers are overworked and underpaid. They teach to large class sizes and can’t focus on the kids who are really struggling. When they do tutoring work, it is either free (or at an expense to them) or costly for the families receiving the services. And that’s assuming you can even find a teacher willing to tutor – let’s face it, most people just want to go home at the end of the day and see their families before they start on all the work that they had to take home! Lots of teachers work for summer programs as a way to make extra money, which is great for the teachers but again, expensive for the families. Some of the children who could use the most help are simply out of luck in these cases.
But peers tutor for a variety of reasons. I did look at some other peer tutoring programs where the tutors are paid. Compared to the cost of professional instructions, the prices are much more reasonable. Other programs offer college students course credits or clinic hours in an education program. Both of these things can be pretty motivating to higher education students! Some high school students also tutor to get a bullet for their college applications or for community service. All of these are good reasons, and they all can keep costs down. Lower costs means more students can afford the help they need!
Another great reason to use peers is a role model system. Some kids who are struggling in school need to see someone who works hard and is succeeding. They may need to see effective study tips in action, or maybe learn more in-depth note taking. Not to say that teachers can’t provide these things, but kids are more willing to take advice or suggestions from someone other than an adult. They especially don’t want to hear it from their parents or teachers!
Using peers is also helpful with Common Core. Many parents feel completely out of their depth with it, especially the math. Parents don’t know what those crazy boxes are or the way kids are doing long division now. Kids ask for help and their parents have no idea where to start, so they’re looking online at youtube videos and hating this “new math.” But peers have actually been taught these things, and they understand. Not only that, but they can offer tips and tricks on how they picked it up and help others catch on, too.
Technology can be a problem, too. Kids who graduated even fifteen years ago didn’t use the slide rule that my grandparents did. Nowadays, I can use my phone to do all kinds of math that my parents needed a scientific calculator for. But peer tutors already know these things – because they’re actively using it themselves!
Peer tutors can approach those who need help as a friend and as an educational resource, which I think can be really valuable to those who are struggling.
Whew, I wish I’d said all that earlier in my instructor’s office! He’s going to get an earful from me tomorrow, let me tell you!!