(Questions & Answers)
- Cognitive growth requires social interaction, especially among peers (Piaget 1950; Vygotsky, 1978).
- Peers often influence children’s attitudes and behaviors more than adults do (Foot, et al, 1990).
- Cross-age learning efforts which have been evaluated during the last few decades have typically produced very significant academic and interpersonal growth among both older and younger learners in a wide range of subjects (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989; Kalkowski, 1995).
- When program costs were compared to achievement in basic academic skills, peer and cross-age learning among students were twice as productive as computer-assisted instruction, three times more productive than reducing class size from 35 to 30 students, and about four times as productive as lengthening the school day by one hour (Levin et al., 1984).
- Cross-age learning tends to be even more beneficial than same-age tutoring (Fitz-Gibbon, 1980).
- Cross-age tutors tend to benefit academically and socially even more than their tutees (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989).
- Peer and cross-age learning is about the only way that we can individualize instruction, as most schools will probably never have enough money to hire sufficient numbers of teachers to do so (Topping, 1987).
- Sixth-grade tutors did as well as college students in developing reading skills among second-grade tutees (Thomas, 1972). A two-year age or ability difference tends to be best (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989). Low-achieving, learning disabled, and retarded pupils also tend to be as effective in tutoring basic skills to younger or similarly disabled children (Levine, 1976; Kane 1977; Lombardo, 1976).
- Elementary, not extensive, preparation of tutors is needed. In general, tutors appear to benefit most from relatively unstructured tutoring programs that require them to learn to think, plan, and organize tutoring activities and materials (Goodlad and Hirst, 1989).
- Comparison of American and Asian educational practices and other research indicates that students do not thrive unless their teachers have more opportunities to exchange ideas and moral support with one another than is currently common in American schools (Stevenson, 1992). Across-class tutoring provides one excellent, hands-on method for mutual teacher support and growth (Beery, 1999). Such teamwork makes life more enjoyable and productive for teachers (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989).
- Cloward (1967) and Mevarech (1985) found no significant effects of different gender pairings of tutors and tutees. Topping & Whiteley (1988) found some gender differences, at least with Paired Reading among children of the same age, and male-male pairings did particularly well. Cicirelli (1972) found that girls were more effective tutors than boys of their own younger brothers and sisters in school, but both boys and girls were as effective in tutoring unrelated younger children. The preferences of children may often be the best guide. Most children tend to prefer to be paired with the same gender (Szynal-Brown & Mogan, 1983).
- With regard to the optimal number and duration of tutoring sessions, Cloward (1967) found that four sessions per week were more effective than two sessions per week over a 26 week period. Programs of from two weeks to two years have been effective (Goodlad & Hirst, 1989), and statistically positive results tend to be found within 10 weeks (Osguthorpe, 1985). Tutees tend to find 20 minutes too short and 40 minutes too long Fitz-Gibbon (1976). The common practice is about 30 minutes Goodlad & Hirst (1989). Tutoring plans almost always succeed when scheduling and other structures are kept simple (Topping, 1987).
- Beery (2000) reported that students made far greater than average academic gains when enrolled in schools in which all of the teachers engaged in cross-age learning at least once a week for two or more years. The students in the pilot school, for example, gained over twice as many national percentiles on academic achievement tests within their first full year than the other schools in their district. Even students with learning disabilities or whose primary language was foreign gained almost as much or more than average students from other schools. Partly because boys improved even more than girls, Beery suggested that, when a “critical mass” of all or most of the teachers in a school frequently and consistently engage in cross-age learning, a much more positive school “culture” develops which stimulates growth. No one feels alone. Everyone helps. Violence decreases. Focused learning increases.