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Neil MacKay
Dyslexia Friendly Strategies & Support

Peer tutoring - developing the mantle of the expert

  1. Harnessing the power of peer tutoring – promoting the mantle of the expert
  2. To understand what effective peer tutoring looks like it is helpful to start with the negative – peer tutoring is definitely not asking a quick finisher to sit with a slow finisher to “help” or, even worse, to keep them on track.  This is child minding at best and, at worst, risks upsetting both parties.
  4. On the other hand, using a student as “ an instructional resources” implies a degree of forethought and preparation.  For this reason the main beneficiary of effective peer tutoring is the student actually doing the tutoring, especially if s/he has had time to prepare.  A typical scenario could be:
  6. A student is struggling with an aspect of work – the aspect is within the ZPD and is almost within reach.

  • Instead of offering help at this point, the teacher challenges the student to prepare the aspect to teach to the group – this makes a powerful homework task and is my preferred strategy

  • If appropriate, the challenge can include creating an animated power point, a model or maybe a diagram with removable labels – basically anything to make the presentation as interactive and multi-sensory as possible.

  • During the following lesson the students presents the aspect to the group as the peer tutor – effectively wearing the mantle of the expert.


    Almost without exception, the peer tutor has mastered the aspect and is ready to move on.  The rest of the group also benefit from engaging with a presentation made  in “student speak” but there is little doubt who is the main beneficiary of the peer tutoring process.  Indeed research by the Sutton Trust, supported by John Hattie and Dylan Wiliam, suggests that effective peer tutoring can offer gains of 18 months in a year.  This approach works really well for students on grade boundaries of high stakes testing protocols.  The temptation is to mentor them – effectively to “teach them harder.” Peer tutoring offers a much more effective alternative.

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