Despite the continued
popularity of college student peer tutoring, there exists
little comprehensive research on its effectiveness and benefits.
What research does exist, however, has found that peer tutoring
is highly cost-effective (Levin, Glass, and Meister, 1987,
in Lidren, Meier, and Brigham, 1991) and usually results in
substantial gains for participants, both academically and
socially (Cohen and Kulik, 1981).
Although it is
often assumed that peer tutoring primarily benefits those
who are tutored, Goodlad and Hirst (1989, p. 57) point out
that both the recipient and the tutor make significant gains.
For the tutor, benefits result from reinforcing existing knowledge
of fundamental concepts and gaining a better understanding
of a field of study. In addition, tutors develop a sense of
personal efficacy, gain insight into the teaching/learning
process, and discover meaningful applications of the subject
matter. For recipients of tutoring, the advantages include
individualized instruction, more contact time with a teacher
(tutor), the opportunity to discuss material and ask questions
in a non-threatening and supportive setting, and interaction
and bonding with peers (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989; Lawson,
1989; Schmidt & Moust, 1995).
for the success of many peer tutoring programs may lie in
the social and cognitive congruence between the tutor and
the recipient (Schmidt & Moust, 1995). 'Social congruence'
refers to the ability of the tutor to "seek an informal
relationship with the students and display an attitude of
personal interest and caring" (p. 709). 'Cognitive congruence'
is "the ability to express oneself in the language of
the students, using the concepts they use and explaining things
in ways easily grasped by students," in addition to a
"sensitivity concerning the difficulties that students
may come across while dealing with a problem or with the content
relative to the problem" (p. 709).
experienced by young persons in teaching each other, however,
are not sufficient to ensure a successful tutoring relationship.
Tutors must also possess knowledge about the subject and have
a sense of how to best facilitate interactions with their
students. Tutors who receive training in these two critical
areas are often more successful in teaching other students
than are untrained tutors (Fitch, 1992; Mann, 1992).
In addition, it
should be noted that the majority of peer-tutoring programs
for students are intended to complement, not substitute for,
regular classroom instruction. Topping (1998, p. 46) cautions
that tutoring should never be a substitute for professional
teaching. Damon and Phelps (1989) describe an ideal learning
atmosphere as a rich blend of peer and adult instructional
History of Peer Tutoring
in the United States
Varieties of Peer Tutoring
Research: Is Peer Tutoring Effective?
of Successful Programs
Peer Tutoring at Reed
to Science at Reed Reviews