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Work Together: The Pros and Cons of Peer Tutoring

In one form or another, peer tutoring has been around for about as long as formal education. It can be a highly effective teaching strategy that offers excellent benefits to students and tutors alike. But not every school implements it. Should they? Let's break down some of the leading pros and cons of peer tutoring.

What is Peer Tutoring?

If you've never heard the term peer tutoring before, peer tutoring is a teaching strategy that partners students to work on an assigned task. The goal is to reinforce what the students have learned by having them explain and teach each other. There are a few different ways to determine student pairings in peer tutoring.

  • Teachers may decide to pair a strong student with one who finds the topic more challenging. This pairing is mainly for the benefit of the student that is lacking.
  • Teachers could pair students randomly to work together. This strategy may be used for simple tasks and to drive home the concepts taught.
  • Teachers may allow students to pick their peer tutoring partner. Allowing students to choose their peer tutoring partner may be enjoyable for fun assignments.

Choose the best strategy for your group of kids and the assigned task.

Pros of Peer Tutoring 

Let's review some of the pros of peer tutoring.

Increased Academic Benefits

Both peers can gain from the peer tutoring relationship. The tutor and the student learn how to clarify their thoughts and how to explain the subject clearly. When we teach, we learn, and teaching will give the tutor more insight into the subject.

The student in the pair receiving personal instruction from a peer might feel less intimidated and more willing to ask questions with their peer. They may also grasp the concept better if the subject has been taught differently, too.

Builds Social Skills

The peer tutoring pair will build a rapport. The tutor is gaining self-confidence, and the student is learning how to listen to others. The relationship between the two is more formal than on the playground or in an ordinary class setting. The students are learning to relate differently and work together to accomplish a group goal.

Helps The Teacher

There are two ways that peer tutoring helps the teacher:

  1. By monitoring the peer pairs, the teacher knows how effectively the students are learning. The teacher may discover that there are some aspects of the topic that they need to clarify.
  2. If some students are not as quick to master a subject as others, it can be difficult to go back to basics with the whole class. This takes precious time and can be boring for those students who have grasped the topic. Peer tutoring is a great way to bring everyone up to speed.


Peer tutoring offers opportunities for student feedback that they might miss in the typical classroom setting. Both of the students might discover that there are aspects that need a teacher's clarification. They will, perhaps, be more willing to ask the teacher for help than they would be in front of the entire class. 

The teacher will discover which parts of a course the students engage with and which parts they find difficult or tedious. This feedback is essential in gauging the student's comprehension of the concepts.

Change of Focus

In the classroom, the teacher is naturally the focus of attention. Peer tutoring allows the students to switch their attention from the teacher to a classmate. 

Suitable for All Ages

Teachers can use a peer tutoring program with any aged students. From preschool group work to college cram sessions. Students can gain more knowledge and skills when they work with a peer. 

Cons of Peer Tutoring

Now, let's explore the cons of peer tutoring.

Hard Work

A teacher has a lot on their plate. Setting up a peer tutoring program needs clear and careful planning and defined objectives. How are you going to organize it? What do you hope to achieve? How often is peer tutoring going to take place? Setting strict ground rules will help to keep students on task.

Student Resistance

When a teacher initiates a peer tutoring program, they ask students to step outside their usual roles. Many students will be enthusiastic, but some may be reluctant to take on a responsibility that they feel belongs to the teacher. You will have to persuade everyone of the value of the program. Potential incentives, such as extra credit, may also help encourage students who would otherwise pass on the opportunity. 

Poor Student Interaction

Students should take their responsibilities seriously and build friendly, constructive relationships. However, some students may treat the program as a joke. A tutor may patronize or dominate their partner, making the tutoring session worthless and destructive. You will need to keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior.

When to Hold Peer Tutoring Sessions

If you are convinced that peer tutoring is a valuable strategy, the obvious answer is to hold peer tutoring sessions as often as possible. You may want to start offering peer tutoring sessions immediately before tests or other exams. This will allow all students to see what peer tutoring is and see the program's benefit. 

Wrapping Up

Peer tutoring can be a very effective technique and something that both students and tutors enjoy. The main advantage is that it allows students to catch up with the classwork, ask pertinent review questions, and build friendships. 

Teachers should try out different peer pairings to find the best match; carefully consider subjects, strengths, weaknesses, etc., if you assign peer tutor pairs. A peer tutoring program can be a formal event or informally in a classroom during normal instruction time. Whatever you choose to implement, set rules for your students, and most of all, allow fun!


Written by John Tomkinson

Education World Contributor

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