Working with other students in high-risk courses like first-year science and mathematics classes, be it in peer study sessions or supplemental instruction from older students, is associated with higher average grades, lower failure and grade-retention rates, lower dropout rates and higher graduation rates, according to ain the Review of Educational Research.
Supplementary instruction, in which older, high-performing students tutor or reteach concepts to younger struggling students, has long been a popular learning technique, but in the 1990s, it faced criticism for limited evidence that it worked with all students, rather than just highly motivated ones.
The current review of 29 international studies, by researchers in Australia, New Zealand, and Tanzania, tries to account statistically for students’ motivation and self-selection into these programs. It suggests this sort of peer learning may help keep students on track in so-called high-risk courses, like first-year science and math classes, in which students often hit a wall of challenging content and fail or withdraw.
A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Peer Tutors