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The impacts of peer teaching on learning


Catherine Miller, programme director for Team Up, explores why peer teaching can have an outstanding impact on pupils who need extra support

A cohesive school community, pulled together by a love of learning and a common goal. Isn’t that the dream?

One way to drive your school towards this is to look for ways to create positive relationships among pupils themselves through peer teaching, harnessing the expertise of older learners to boost the younger year groups.

At Team Up, we have spent the last few years creating and honing our sixth form enrichment programme, initially an adjunct to our regular tuition programme, which is usually delivered by external volunteer tutors and aimed at pupil premium recipients. We have found that training sixth formers to tutor in their own school has a brilliant academic impact, with pupils improving on average by over four times the expected rate over a term. What’s more, the positive relationships between pupils and tutors provide fertile ground for improved confidence – for both tutors and tutees. We have also trialled partnerships between 11-16 institutions and local independent and grammar schools, and again found a really positive effect.

So, why should you embrace peer teaching?

Exam tips and tricks: One reason behind the power of peer teaching is the fresh understanding of exam technique that year 12 and 13 students bring. For example, at Kemnal Technology College, where sixth formers from Newstead Wood School tutored in spring 2019, year 11 pupils improved their maths scores by almost a grade over the course of the term. Pupils commented that their tutors’ detailed knowledge of the exact methods covered by the exam was helpful. As one of them said: “You helped me get a fraction calculation question right in my mocks and I thank you for that.”

A relatable teacher: Pupils who work with a sixth form tutor often comment that the sessions are enjoyable. For example, one of our pupils at Sacred Heart High School commented that her tutor made their lessons “funny, exciting and also very helpful”. Working with someone closer to your own age can make it easier to build a good rapport, an important prerequisite for establishing trust and incentivising pupils to take part.

Concrete leadership skills: On the other side of the equation, we find that sixth formers who undertake teaching, whether in their own school or another, demonstrate considerable growth in confidence. This is true of their teaching and leadership skills in particular, but also their ability to communicate, organise themselves and take responsibility. It is important to give student tutors an opportunity to reflect on the skills they have built and relate these to their ambitions for the future. At Team Up, we do this through our career mentoring scheme, matching each sixth former with a mentor in their chosen field.

A community of learning: For the school, creating positive links between year groups and establishing a culture of role models can have far-reaching effects. At Overton Grange, for example, where Team Up ran two terms of sixth form tuition, Ofsted noted the cohesive culture, saying: “Students feel listened to and appreciate the opportunities to become involved in the wider life of the school, for example as academic mentors to younger pupils.”

There are benefits for everyone when a peer teaching programme is established. Younger pupils learn from relatable, experienced role models, sixth formers grow in confidence and skills and the school helps cultivate a purposeful community of learning. So, why not give it a try this year?

Team Up are recruiting school and sixth form partners in London for the coming academic year. Please contact school-partnerships@teamup.org.uk to find out more.

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