The growing practice of implementing peer tutoring programs within schools is frequently put under scrutiny by teachers and administrators. A common concern is whether peer tutors are more effective than outsourced educators who provide support services. They ask, how can a peer ever provide better academic aid than a professional with a teaching degree? Can we trust our own students to give good quality support?
However, research is showing that the benefits of peer tutoring are growing. Students are not the only ones who benefit from these internal programs. The tutors themselves, teachers, and administrators all reap the benefits of having their own students provide academic support to their classmates.
An Extension of the Classroom
Schools that implement peer tutoring programs can create an academic support experience that integrates seamlessly with the classroom. There is often a discrepancy between what and how students learn in school and what they’re being taught in external tutoring lessons. Teachers do not have the capacity to meet individually with all their students, and external tutors do not understand the context of what is being taught in the classroom.
On the other hand, peer tutors can increase teacher bandwidth by serving as a resource that extends learning beyond the classroom. Teachers can recommend tutors that were their previous students instead of strangers. Moreover, tutors already had the same teachers as the students, so they understand their teaching style and emphasize course material they know the teacher prioritizes.
Shared Perspectives and Experiences
One of the most significant roadblocks that most students face when succeeding academically is the lack of self-confidence and motivation. When adults try to give helpful advice to students, it typically doesn’t stick because it feels distant and unrealistic. Being told that physics can be manageable by Albert Einstein isn’t very motivating, but being encouraged by a classmate who previously was in your same shoes can be inspiring.
Students crave emotional and social connections and tend to work better amongst friendly equals rather than authority figures. Peer tutors can build and promote healthy relationships with other students. As students themselves, they understand the mental pressures that their peers face, making them more qualified than anyone else to give guidance that will be relevant and impactful. They know how it feels to be struggling in a class, so they can help offer strategies to manage the anxiety.
Student Safety and Equity
Professional third-party tutors can pose a threat to the safety of a student. Even with background checks, parents can only do so much research to verify that the true intent of those tutors is not malicious. Too often do authority figures abuse their power to take advantage of students who are seeking their help. Alternatively, with peer tutoring programs as a resource, students can reach out to their friends for help, and parents can have peace of mind knowing that their child is safe.
Additionally, external tutors pose a financial burden on families. Those parents who cannot afford to pay these tutors must commit to helping their children themselves. However, most parents who can’t afford it also have to work two jobs, so they have even less time. As a result, substantial learning inequities appear. Peer tutors provide an avenue for administrators to mitigate these inequities by serving as a free resource available to all students, no matter their socioeconomic background.