Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

The Efficacy of ClassWide Peer Tutoring in Middle Schools

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

The Efficacy of ClassWide Peer Tutoring in Middle Schools

Article excerpt

The identification and sustained use of effective interventions is of critical concern in urban schools where illiteracy and academic failure are high (Greenwood et al., 1993; Hannaway, 2005; National Association of Educational Progress, 2003; U.S. Dept. of Education, 1997-the 19th Annual Report to Congress). Given higher expectations for student achievement and conduct outcomes at the forefront of present educational policies, (i.e., IDEA Act of 2005, No Child Left Behind), general and special education teachers must be able to systematically apply effective instructional and behavioral interventions across student groups diverse in culture, language, ability, and level of achievement in the subject matter (Utley, Obiakor, & Kozleski, 2005). Thus, it is imperative that the field produce empirically validated interventions containing effective instructional features that promote safe, structured classroom environments with acceptable levels of student productivity and appropriate classroom behavior. These interventions are needed in all schools but particularly so in urban schools containing extremely diverse populations (Flood & Anders, 2005).

One solution is to supplement general education instruction with peer-assisted, collaborative instructional activities, wherein students spend time supporting each others' learning through classwide peer tutoring: CWPT (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1989; Rohrbeck, Ginsberg-Block, Fantuzzo, & Miller, 2003). CWPT enables general educators to meet the instructional needs of a broad range of students by organizing the classroom into dyads during a portion of weekly instruction. Tutoring dyads, when taught peer-assisted learning strategies to promote research-based reading skills (i.e., phonemic awareness, decoding, and comprehension among others) aligned with teacher-led activities in the reading curriculum are highly effective and relatively easy to replicate (Rohrbeck et al., 2003). Distinct advantages of CWPT are that: (a) groups of students can operate on different levels of the curriculum, employing different procedures meeting the needs of the lowest and highest functioning students without overwhelming the students or the teacher, (b) students receive one-on-one mentoring with corrective feedback, (c) the volume of academic responding is dramatically increased, (d) mastery and fluency with new material are established rapidly, (e) academic, social, and behavioral skills are taught at the same time, (f) students with disabilities are able to access the general education curriculum, (g) teachers and students find CWPT an acceptable practice, and (f) cost and resources are highly reasonable (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Carta, 1997).

CWPT has been validated for elementary-aged students at-risk and with mild disabilities (e.g., Greenwood, 1991; Kamps, Barbetta, Leonard, Delquadri, & Hall, 1994; Utley, Greenwood, & Mortweet, 1997). Research has shown that students enrolled in CWPT in multiple subject areas (i.e., reading and math) acquire skills faster, retain more of what they learn, and make greater advances in academic achievement when compared to traditional instructional methods. Additionally, follow-up results have shown that CWPT is a protective factor in terms of significantly higher growth in achievement, statistically fewer at-risk students eventually placed into special education services (MMR, LD, & EBD) after grades 6 and 7 (Greenwood, Terry, & Utley et al., 1993), and fewer students dropping out of school prior to graduation (Greenwood, 1991).

However, with a few exceptions (e.g., Bell, Young, Blair, & Nelson, 1990; Maheady, Sacca, & Harper, 1988; Mastropieri, Scruggs, Spencer, & Fontana, 2003), the vast majority of work has been in elementary level classes targeting basic academic skills. Examples of secondary school peer tutoring studies with students with academic and behavioral risks have included (a) reciprocal tutoring in comprehension strategies by middle school students with learning disabilities and mild mental retardation (Mastropieri et al. …

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