Peer Tutoring

One of the most fascinating aspects of education and knowledge transfer is that it can take place in numerous shapes, mediums, and forms. What’s more, these mediums and forms do not necessarily have to exclude one another.

A particular form of education and knowledge transfer that has proven to be incredibly effective and beneficial is peer tutoring. What exactly is peer tutoring? We discuss this in detail below. But first, it is important to note that, at its core, peer tutoring is built upon the idea that students can learn effectively from their peers.

This form of learning recognizes that students tend to have different learning styles and preferences, and that teaching concepts in different ways can enhance understanding. Peer tutors, therefore, being in almost the same shoes as the students they’re tutoring, get to serve as facilitators and guides to their peers, leveraging the shared circumstances to help them through challenging topics and concepts.

What is Peer Tutoring?

Peer tutoring is simply a teaching and learning method where students are the ones providing academic support and assistance to their peers. Peer tutoring employs a collaborative learning approach that sees students with a solid grasp of a particular subject or skill voluntarily assist their fellow students who may be less skilled and proficient in that area.

Peer tutoring often occurs with students in the same grade level or course, but it can also involve students in different levels and courses, in an arrangement where older students help younger ones.

An interesting feature to note about peer tutoring is that everything often depends on the shared experience between the tutor and the tutee - which members of faculty often find impossible to replicate.

Because peer tutors have recently learned the same material as the tutee, they are in a perfect position to relate to the difficulties and obstacles faced by their peers. Ideally, this shared experience is used to foster empathy and a supportive learning environment.

Benefits of Peer Tutoring

Peer tutoring is highly appealing to educators, not because it is convenient but because it offers an incredible number of benefits to both the tutors, tutees, and the teachers themselves. Below are just some of the most notable of these benefits.

Improved Academic Performance

Naturally, the primary goal of most schools and institutions is to provide a quality learning environment where students perform great academically. Well, research has shown that peer tutoring can have a positive impact on academic achievement. A particular study conducted in 2018[1] found that students who participated in peer tutoring showed significant improvements in their academic performance compared to those who did not receive tutoring.

This makes sense, of course, given that once again the shared experience, and the unguarded environment fostered by this experience, often leads to more effective learning sessions.

Enhanced Self-Confidence

Peer tutoring has been found to seriously boost the self-confidence of both tutors and tutees. This, again, is understandable seeing as a tutor has to take control of a learning environment as the main actor, which is a serious platform for confidence building. And the tutee, being free and able to learn from their peers without judgement, becomes more emboldened to ask questions and stand up for themselves.

A 2005 study[2] backed this up by revealing that students who engaged in peer tutoring did indeed report increased confidence in their abilities and greater willingness to participate in class.

Development of Social Skills

Academic achievement is great and remains the primary motivation for most educational endeavors. Still, going to school and achieving strictly academic improvement without social improvement can be deemed a shortcoming in some sense. Peer tutoring offers students the opportunity to develop important social skills, including but not limited to communication, empathy, and cooperation.

In 2017, for example, a study found that students who participated in peer tutoring demonstrated improved social skills and a greater sense of belonging in the classroom[3].

Positive Effects on Tutoring Skills

It is always a plus to pick positive extra skills in school. Tutoring Skills can be a very worthy addition to a student’s repertoire, not least when it comes to college preparedness and life preparedness in general.

Engaging in peer tutoring has been shown to enhance the tutoring skills of the students, particularly the ones providing assistance, but also the ones receiving it as they get to learn and be inspired by their peers.

Since 1998, there have been peer-reviewed studies[4] that showed that tutors developed better instructional strategies, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities through their tutoring experiences.

Cross-Age Tutoring Benefits

As mentioned earlier, and as we’ll see in more detail below, peer tutoring doesn’t have to be between students of the same age and class group. Cross-age tutoring offers its own benefits, not the least of which is increased motivation and a sense of self-worth.

A study by McIntyre et al. (2011) demonstrated that when older students tutor younger ones, they not only get to experience improved academic performance of their tutees but also of their own. They also get to enjoy personal growth, increased motivation, and a sense of fulfilment.

Challenges of Peer Tutoring

Successfully implementing peer tutoring in a learning environment can be a game changer for educators everywhere. But in the course of doing so, there are a few inevitable challenges one must overcome. These include:

Knowledge and Skill Level Disparities

One challenge that is virtually inevitable in peer tutoring is the potential disparity in knowledge and skill levels between tutors and tutees. The tutors are chosen because of their advanced knowledge on the subjects. Sadly, this doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability to explain complex concepts or provide guidance if they lack a solid understanding of the subject matter themselves.

Therefore, it is important to address this challenge by providing adequate training and support to tutors, ensuring they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively assist their peers.

Communication and Teaching Techniques

Another area of relative difficulty is communication. Effective communication is crucial in peer tutoring. Without the ability to convey information clearly and use appropriate teaching techniques, shared experience in peer tutoring doesn’t really translate to effective learning.

For this reason, educators employing peer tutoring must pay attention to encouraging tutors to employ various teaching strategies. They must also occasionally provide guidance on effective communication strategies that can help overcome this challenge.

Time Management

Students aren’t teachers. That is the beauty of peer tutoring. Consequently, that is also one of its biggest challenges. Because students aren’t teachers, they still have to focus on their own learning activities. Managing the time between both endeavors can be tricky to say the least.

Tutors will often find it difficult to allocate sufficient time to adequately prepare for tutoring sessions, while tutees may struggle to juggle their tutoring sessions with their regular coursework.

To address this challenge, it is imperative that educators set clear expectations, establish a schedule, and promote effective time management skills.

Motivation and Engagement

Why do educators encourage peer tutoring? Because it works. Why do students engage in peer tutoring? Well, the answer to this is usually not so straightforward. While some students are inclined to it and naturally enjoy it, others may not share the same inclination.

Therefore, maintaining motivation and engagement can be a challenge for both tutors and tutees during peer tutoring sessions. Tutors naturally face difficulties in keeping tutees actively involved and interested in the learning process, while tutees may experience challenges in staying motivated.

To solve this problem, an optimal direction would be to implement interactive and engaging tutoring strategies, provide positive reinforcement, and foster a supportive learning environment.

Peer Dynamics and Relationships

Lastly, peer dynamics can sometimes pose challenges in peer tutoring. The relationship between the students involved often set the tone for everything else that is to follow.

For example, tutors and tutees may face issues related to hierarchy, competition, or conflicts arising from personal relationships outside the tutoring context.

To avoid this complication, educators must create a fundamentally positive and inclusive environment, promote respect and collaboration among peers, and also provide guidance on effective peer interactions.

Group of students learning

Peer Tutoring Models

Peer tutoring can occur in numerous forms. Below are three of the most popular models that have been employed in different learning environments to great success.

  • Class-Wide Peer Tutoring (CWPT): Class-Wide Peer Tutoring, as the name implies, is a form of peer tutoring that involves the entire class. Students are paired up and take turns serving as tutors and tutees. Among other things, CWPT emphasizes active participation, collaboration, and mutual learning among students.

  • Cross-Age Peer Tutoring: Cross-Age Peer Tutoring involves pairing students from different age groups or grade levels. Usually, older students serve as tutors to younger students. Of course, it can also be the other way round but this isn’t as common. Cross Age peer tutoring promotes mentorship, leadership, and the development of social and academic skills.

  • Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS): Peer Assisted Learning Strategies is a structured model that prioritizes reading and language skills. In PALS, students work in pairs. The tutor provides support in various reading and language activities, such as decoding, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary development. It promotes active engagement, cooperative learning, and academic achievement among participants.

Implementing Peer Tutoring - The Right Way

When it comes to education, there is usually more than one way to achieve the same results. This principle holds true for peer tutoring as well.

However, there are a few common steps that anyone looking to implement peer tutoring the right way must follow. We take a look at some of the most important of these below.

Step 1: Identifying Goals and Objectives

The very first step in any successful implementation of peer tutoring is to clearly define the goals and objectives of the tutoring program. By this, we mean that you should first determine what specific outcomes you want to achieve.

Obviously, there are more than one possible goals, and all can be achieved at the same time. But there has to be priorities. Some of the goals to have in mind include improved academic performance, increased confidence, and enhanced communication skills.

Step 2: Select Suitable Participants

Secondly, you want to ensure that you select the right participants for peer tutoring. You can do this by identifying potential tutors and tutees who are motivated, responsible, and possess the necessary knowledge and skills.

Factors that can help make this decision easier include grade level, subject expertise, and compatibility between tutors and tutees.

Step 3: Provide Comprehensive Training

Thirdly, educators must offer thorough training for tutors to be able to pass across their knowledge to their peers in an effective way. Among other things, they need to be equiped with effective tutoring techniques, communication skills, and strategies to address challenges.

The training should also emphasize the importance of empathy, patience, and maintaining a positive learning environment.

Step 4: Establish Clear Expectations

Once participants are selected and training is complete, the next important step is to set clear expectations for both tutors and tutees regarding their roles, responsibilities, and commitment.

The purpose of the tutoring program must be clearly passed across along with the session schedules and any other specific guidelines or protocols that are to be followed during the course of the program.

Step 5: Foster a Supportive Environment

Creating a supportive and inclusive environment where tutors and tutees feel comfortable and respected is another crucial step. To do so, educators must encourage open communication, active listening, and constructive feedback.

They just also promote a culture of collaboration instead of constant competition among participants.

Step 6: Monitor and Assess Progress

Once all the prerequisites are in place and the program has begun, the next step is monitoring and assessment.

Educators must regularly monitor the progress of the tutoring sessions to ensure they are meeting the desired objectives. Along the way they must also collect feedback from both the tutors and students being tutored so as to identify areas of improvement and address any challenges or concerns promptly.

Step 7: Provide Ongoing Support

Furthermore, peer tutoring is not a one-and-done process. Along the way, educators must continue to offer ongoing support to tutors and tutees throughout the entire process.

Regular check-ins, mentorship, additional training opportunities, and access to resources or materials can make the process a lot more successful than it would be otherwise.

Step 8: Evaluate and Adjust

Lastly, to successfully implement peer tutoring, continuous evaluation and adjustment must be done. The main purpose of evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of the peer tutoring program. From there, you may proceed to make necessary adjustments based on feedback and assessment results.

Are there areas of success? Well, consolidate on them. And are there that require improvement? Well, make changes accordingly to enhance the overall quality of the program.


  1. Roscoe, R. D., Byman, R., & Briner, S. (2018). Peer tutoring improves student achievement: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 88(4), 547-586.

  2. Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (2005). Peer-assisted learning strategies: Promoting word recognition, fluency, and reading comprehension in young children. Journal of Special Education, 39(1), 34-44.

  3. Rabinowitz, M., & Beghetto, R. A. (2017). The role of peer tutoring in supporting creative learning environments. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 25, 34-44.

  4. Gamoran, A., & Weinstein, M. (1998). Differentiation and tutoring in the context of an integrated services model. American Educational Research Journal, 35(4), 639-674.

  5. McIntyre, E., Kyle, D. W., Chen, C., & Ankenmann, R. D. (2011). The benefits of cross-age tutoring on academic performance in a secondary school setting. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 16(3), 127-147

Ryan Collins
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Ryan Collins

Empowering minds with engaging insights and innovative learning strategies.