Wednesday, November 21, 2012
At CNN.com last week, Carolyn Coil wrote a post on Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted. The list touches on many we've discussed here (like not ID-ing kids until 3rd grade under the misguided belief that everything evens out by then). But my "favorite" myth, if one can use that word, continues to be #9 -- that if a gifted child already knows a topic being covered, it's a good strategy to use the gifted kid as a tutor for struggling classmates. I've often argued from the perspective that gifted children deserve to be challenged with appropriate work. They often already deeply know whatever topic they're being asked to teach to peers, and hence aren't going to learn it better. Time spent tutoring is time they could be working ahead. But while Coil mentions this argument, she also throws out another one: teaching is a skill. Assigning children to teach each other "assumes that teaching struggling students is something gifted kids innately know how to do. Most gifted students do not know how to tutor others. They often are frustrated that struggling students don’t understand what they perceive as easy." Some kids like to learn how to teach, and want to get better at it. Some do not. This is a different skill set than having mastered certain math concepts. Yet peer tutoring remains quite popular as a strategy. I think some educators see it as win-win. The more advanced child is given something to do and the child who is struggling gets extra help. But it may be lose-lose. Have you or your children been in classrooms that have relied a lot on peer tutoring? What did you think of the strategy?