Creative Project Tall Buddies Term Paper

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Tall Buddies: Peer-Assisted Learning Initiative for Elementary Schools

Using a Peer-Assisted Learning Program to Help Both Young Tutors and Tutees Achieve Improved Academic OutcomesBuy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Creative Project Tall Buddies Assignment

The ability to read well contributes to virtually all other academic pursuits, and it is little wonder that there has been a great deal of attention paid to this aspect of education in recent years. In this regard, Otaiba, Fuchs, Fuchs et al. (2001) emphasize that, "The problems associated with limited reading competence are serious. Students with poor reading skills have lower self-esteem, pose greater discipline problems and are less likely to complete school than more skillful readers" (p. 15). One initiative that has been shown to be highly effective in helping young students with reading problems achieve improved ability across the board is peer-assisted learning (pers. obs.; Otaiba et al., 2001). According to Dufrene, Duhon, Gilbertson and Noell (2005), "Peer tutoring has been shown to increase significantly students' time spent in academic instruction and engagement and student outcome. Additionally, peer tutoring has been used effectively to address individual needs in remedial programs for at-risk and mildly disabled students" (p. 74). Peer-assisted learning initiatives are especially useful alternative instructional approaches because they take advantage of a relatively abundant resource (i.e., students) and place comparatively limited demands on scarcer resources (i.e., educators); moreover, such programs provide a framework in which students can learn cooperative work skills in addition to the academic skills that are being targeted (Dufrene et al., 2005). The beneficial outcomes of such peer tutoring programs on students' reading performance have been previously documented (Dufrene et al., 2005). While a wide range of potential positive outcomes are possible for students engaging in peer tutoring programs, academic progress is typically the area that has received the most attention; however, besides gains in scholastic achievement, researchers have suggested that there are a number of other beneficial student outcomes that result from peer-tutoring initiatives, including improved academic self-efficacy and persistence (Hartman, Mencke, Uribe & Xu, 2001). These authors add that, "Tutoring also brings a social component to the learning process, given that educators now believe more effective learning takes place when there are two or more people involved" (Hartman et al., 2001, p. 22).

In reality, though, such learning approaches are not new, and some of the earliest research out of which such cooperative learning techniques were developed goes back to early 1900s, and the foundation of peer tutoring can be traced to Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster in late eighteenth century) or perhaps even earlier (Falchikov, 2001). This study provides a critical review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning peer-assisted learning in general and how these programs have been used to help young readers in particular and a case study of the effectiveness of this initiative at an elementary school that provides services at-risk 6th graders due to emotional, social or behavioral problems and 1st grade struggling readers. The product of this study will be a best practices guide to help educators at all levels identify which peer-assisted technique might be best suited for their individual needs, how to implement it, and how to monitor its effectiveness to ensure long-term success.

Importance of the Study

Today, many teachers are overwhelmed by the special challenges they face. Not only are there escalating numbers of students who are categorized as emotionally or behaviorally disordered and escalating demands on teachers to fill nonteaching roles in children's lives, teachers today are faced with an increasingly diverse set of learners in any given classroom. For example, Fuchs, Fuchs and Saenz (2005) emphasize that, "American schools of the 21st century face the challenge of educating the world's most diverse student body. This diversity is reflected in variations in achievement, socioeconomic status, cultural background, and linguistic background" (p. 231). Further, current estimates suggest that more than 2 million students currently come from non-English-speaking backgrounds and that by the year 2020, this number will reach 6 million with respect to differences in linguistic background (Fuchs et al., 2005). There is also a glaring need to address individual differences in capacity among an increasingly diverse set of learners in the general population, with many educators turning to alternatives to whole-class instruction with the common feature of these techniques being that they involve peer-assisted learning (Keogh & Speece, 1996). It is this researcher's belief that helping troubled 6th grade students feel capable, connected and contributing members of a school will help decrease behavioral problems and increase students' self-esteem. This belief is congruent with Ma (2003) who reports that young students' sense of belonging to their school plays an important role in achieving successful academic outcomes. The principal investigator also believes that by training the 6th grade students how to tutor low achieving 1st graders will have a chance to make accelerated growth. With the Tall Buddy program, three fundamental positive outcomes are possible for the 6th graders: (a) behavior can improve second, (b) student self-esteem increases (which must happen if we want students too behave more responsibly) and achieve more academically and - an improvement in reading skills.

Beyond the foregoing valuable contributions, yet another important outcome of Tall Buddy tutoring is to improve the reading skills of both the Tall Buddies and the Small Buddies to ensure that all students become proficient readers. First graders who have difficulty in reading quickly fall behind their classmates. First-grade teachers can predict with some confidence, that those student in their class with considerable reading deficits by the end of the school year will likely have long-lasting challenges in reading in their school years. Indeed, as Paterson and Elliott (2006) emphasize, "As students progress from elementary school through middle school to high school, they confirm their attitude toward reading. Many high school readers who have struggled with reading along the way carry deeply entrenched negative beliefs about the reading process and, consequently, construct barriers to protect themselves against feelings of failure. These attitudes push reading achievement into a downward spiral" (p. 378).

All teachers involved should select academic measures to use to track student's reading levels both before Tall Buddies begins and during the tutoring program. Also it is important to note that when a Tall Buddy is chosen to participate in the program that the privilege is non-revocable meaning that their position is not held over their head and threatened to be ended due to poor behavior, not turning in homework or completing assignments. It takes time to break habits that have been in process for years. This researcher believes in progress toward the behavior wanted, not perfection.

Section 2: Review of Literature

Introduction.

According to Ehly and Topping (1998), "Peer tutoring is where tutor and tutee are clear about their respective and separate roles and goals. However, peer-assisted learning (PAL) also encompasses peer education and counseling, and peer modeling, monitoring, and assessment" (p. xiii). These authors suggest that many educators may be aware of the general concepts of peer tutoring already; however, reciprocal tutoring, class-wide tutoring, paired learning methods and the deployment of students with special needs as tutors may be relatively unfamiliar (Ehly & Topping, 1998). This point is also made by Otaiba and her colleagues (2001) who report, "One promising alternative to conventional instructional methods is a collaborative arrangement whereby children work together to support each other's learning. Research demonstrates that in the elementary grades, children's reading competence can improve when they work collaboratively on structured learning activities" (p. 15). Using such peer-assisted learning approaches, groups of young students are able to operate on different levels of curricula, using alternative instructional procedures; moreover, teachers can create and simultaneously implement different lessons to address a greater range of individual learning needs (Otaiba et al., 2001).

Despite the increased interest in peer-assisted learning initiatives, there are still many things that remain better described than understood in the scholarly literature concerning tutoring and mentoring, and on which further research needs to be conducted (Falchikov, 2001). There is, however, a growing body of research concerning the effectiveness of peer-assisted learning with research studies having been conducted with students with mild disabilities enrolled in general education classes and from studies carried out in separate special education classes for students with severe disabilities (Fister, Mathot-Buckner, Mcdonnell & Thorson, 2001).

In particular, peer tutoring has been extensively examined as an alternative learning strategy for providing students with severe disabilities with instruction that is tailored to their individual needs (Fister et al., 2001). Research studies have repeatedly demonstrated that students without disabilities can be effective in teaching a wide range of academic and developmental skills to this group of students; however, there remains a paucity of studies that have specifically examined the effectiveness of these strategies in meeting the educational of students with severe disabilities in general education classes (Fister et al., 2001). The review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning peer-assisted learning for this study provides the background and an overview of peer tutoring in general and the potential benefits that accrue to such initiatives in particular, followed by… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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