Types of Peer Tutoring
- Unidirectional peer tutoring. Unidirectional peer tutoring means that the trained peer tutor teaches the entire time, and the child with a disability remains the student in the pair. This method is effective when working with children with more severe disabilities such as severe autism, intellectual disability, visual impairment, or cerebral palsy. The benefits of this option are that the tutor and student always know their roles, and the peer tutor carries the responsibility throughout the entire program.
- Bi-directional, or reciprocal, peer tutoring. A child with and a child without a disability form a dyad (pair). Both children take turns at being the tutor while the other serves as the student. The instructor can have these children switch roles for each skill, class, week, or unit. This method is most effective with children with mild disabilities. The main benefit of this approach is that each child has an opportunity to be the teacher and experience leadership opportunities.
- Class-wide peer tutoring. Class-wide peer tutoring involves breaking the entire class into dyads. Each child participates in reciprocal peer tutoring by providing prompts, error correction, and help to their partner (Greenwood, Carta, and Hall 1988). Class-wide peer tutoring is unique because all children are given task cards to keep them focused on the objectives of the lesson. The tutor takes the task cards and fills in the skills that are mastered by the student. This method is most effective with children with mild disabilities. The main benefit of this approach is that the entire class is involved in the tutoring activity, so no children are singled out because of disability.
- Cross-age peer tutoring. Cross-age peer tutoring occurs when an older child is chosen to tutor a younger child. This method works best when the peer tutor is interested in working with children with disabilities. A cross-aged peer tutor is more effective than a same-aged peer tutor when the student is very young (below first or second grade) or the disability is more involved (such as severe cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, or autism) (Houston-Wilson, Lieberman, et al. 1997; Lieberman, Newcomer, McCubbin, and Dalrymple 1997). The cross-aged peer tutor can be chosen according to willingness, physical skills, and availability. The main benefit of this approach is that the tutor gains valuable teaching experience while the student experiences effective individualized instruction and feedback.
When able bodied students work with children with disabilities without training, the results are often negative and demotivating (Goodwin, 2001; Goodwin & Watkinson, 2000). It is imperative that the students teaching the children with disabilities are trained sufficiently so the relationships fostered are positive and productive.