Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Assessing the Academic, Social, and Language Production Outcomes of English Language Learners Engaged in Peer Tutoring: A Systematic Review

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Assessing the Academic, Social, and Language Production Outcomes of English Language Learners Engaged in Peer Tutoring: A Systematic Review

Article excerpt


Peer tutoring is an instructional strategy that allows students to help one another learn content material through the repetition of key concepts. In more than 40 years of published studies, literature reviews, and meta-analyses of peer tutoring, this quantitative synthesis of the literature is the first to examine the impact of peer tutoring on academic, social, and linguistic outcomes for English language learner (ELL) students. A total of 363 ELLs in kindergarten through 12th grade are represented in the analyses across 17 studies; seven studies used single-case research designs, nine used group designs, and one was a case study. Findings suggest that ELLs benefit from peer tutoring academically, socially, and linguistically. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: academic outcomes, achievement, English language learners, peer tutoring, social outcomes, systematic review


English language learners (ELLs) are defined as individuals who are "in the process of actively acquiring English, and whose primary language is one other than English" (Bardack, 2010, p. 7). According to the U.S. Office of English Language Acquisition, the enrollment of ELLs in U.S. schools from prekindergarten through 12th grade increased approximately 64% from the 1994-1995 school year to the 2009-2010 school year (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Of the nearly 50 million students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools during the 2009-2010 school year, just over 5 million were identified as ELLs (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). These statistics represent a significant increase in the population of students with second-language learning needs. Thus, classrooms are becoming increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse, including those within districts that have not typically experienced such diversity (e.g., rural). This sharp increase in enrollment makes finding ways to provide and support quality instruction for ELLs all the more imperative. In light of these rapidly changing demographics, teachers need to be able to access research-based strategies that best meet the needs of ELLs.

Peer Tutoring Overview

Peer tutoring can be defined as "a class of practices and strategies that employ peers as one-on-one teachers to provide individualized instruction, practice, repetition, and clarification of concepts" (Utley & Mortweet, 1997, p. 9). Peer tutoring is a research-based intervention that has been used to help students learn academic content (King, Staffieri, & Adelgais, 1998), and is beneficial for tutors and tutees (King et al., 1998). Features of peer tutoring include frequent opportunities to respond, increased time on-task, opportunities to practice academic content, and regular and immediate feedback. Each of these components has been empirically linked with increased academic achievement (Maheady, Harper, & Sacca, 1988). Peer tutoring has been implemented across content areas including reading (Hassinger, & Via, 1969; Houghton & Bain, 1993; Oddo, Barnett, Hawkins, & Musti-Rao, 2010), mathematics (Fantuzzo, Polite, & Grayson, 1991; Harper, Mallette, Maheady, Bentley, & Moore, 1995; Hawkins, Musti-Rao, Hughes, Berry, & McGuire 2009), social studies (Bell, Young, Blair, & Nelson, 1990; Lo & Cartledge, 2004; Maheady et al., 1988), and science (Bowman-Perrott, Greenwood, & Tapia, 2007; Kamps et al., 2008). Benefits include (a) being paired with a peer partner for one-to-one instruction, (b) opportunities for error correction, (c) increased time spent on academic behaviors, (d) increased positive social interactions between students, (e) a decrease in off-task and disruptive behaviors, and (f) experiencing more success and report feeling more confident academically (Greenwood, Terry, Arreaga-Mayer, & Finney, 1992).

Peer tutoring has proven effective for students with and without disabilities (Okilwa & Shelby, 2010), native English-speaking students, and (in a small number of studies) ELLs (Gersten et al. …

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