Monday, April 2, 2012

Peer-Assisted Learning

Topping, K. J., & Ehly, S. W. (1998). Introduction to peer-assisted learning. In Peer-assisted learning (pp. 1-5). Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

"PAL is people from similar social groupings, who are not professional teachers, helping each other to learn and by doing so, learning themselves." (p. 1)  This definition really sums up nicely the intention behind Peer Assisted Learning.  The chapter discusses the difficulty of defining such terms as collaboration and peer.  Ideally the pairs would be matched in level and ability, but this is also difficult to ensure.  The emphasis is that both partners benefit from the relationship, the student that is helping will obtain a deeper understanding of the topic by sharing their knowledge with a partner.  "Sharpley and Sharpley (1981) and Cohen, Kulik, and Kulik (1982)found strong evidence of cognitive gains for tutees and tutors and some evidence for improved attitudes and self-image (which are, of course, more difficult to measure)."  (p. 3)
PAL is said to increase motivation and confidence.  Tutors and tutees develop a relationship that can be reciprocal and rewarding.  There is a high emphasis on curriculum content and specific procedures for partners to follow.  
It seems the idea of PALs really gets at a lot of my goals for my Action Research Project.  I am hoping to increase achievement and create a community of collaboration.  I am left with many questions.  
I wonder...
 How and if student reflection is built into this model?
What type of data was collected at the beginning of the studies?  Test scores?
How are students pairs chosen?  What is the most effective pairing for both partners?
How do I establish a classroom culture where both groups (English Only and English Learners) see the benefit of working cooperatively in this way?  
Phew. looks like I need to do a lot more reading...

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