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?

10 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

My son has been in classes that relied on his assisting the teacher. In his 3rd grade class he had the choice of working on his own from workbooks we provided (that were a grade and a half above what the class was doing), doing what the class did, or helping out by scoring other kids' timed drill. His choices varied from day to day, but he learned a lot and developed some teaching skills. As a high schooler, he is currently volunteering as a TA in a Python course that is at much too low a level for him to learn any Python from. He is learning something about teaching while doing a community service.

Jeremy said...

My daughter broke it to me this week that when she's done her work early (never mind that the work is numbingly easy), she is supposed to do coloring pages. In 6th Grade. Peer tutoring would be a step up from that, I guess...but why not actually give the kid something interesting to work on instead?

Anonymous said...

In 6th grade honors English my daughter graded her classmates papers and acted as inspiration for her teacher ("______ is my Muse!") Daughter put up with it for awhile but in the end resented it ("Mom! She stole another one of my ideas!")

nicoleandmaggie said...

Here's our post on the topic:
http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/should-gifted-kids-be-unpaid-teachers-assistants/

Lgm said...

No peer tutoring expected here in elementary or middle school. Ele. is full inclusion.. There are aides hired to provide support for the sped students. Ld students have a sped certified pushin teacher who assists the main classroom teacher. Unclassified students are expected to pay attention and participate in the class work, asking questions when needed.

Peer tutoring is required in high school if the student joined honor society. It is optional if a non honor society student has a study hall and a teacher has invited him to peer tutor.

Anonymous said...

Neither of my kids has been asked officially to tutor (but they're young..3rd and K). My 3rd grader would probably love it. My Kindergartener, if he continues on current personality path, would probably spend the whole time chit-chatting with his assigned pupil.

I know my 3rd grader pulls out a book and reads if/when she has extra time. And apparently she finds a lot of extra time. I knew she was checking out lots of books from the library and returning them quickly, but only recently did I realize how many she goes through and that she is truly finishing all of them (and how annoyed I am about the "AR" reading level tests they use to "guide" her towards appropriate reading material...she keeps aiming for the middle of the suggested range and is disappointed in the choices).

I'm sure I was asked to tutor other kids once in a while, but not too often. Thankfully, since I am a horrible teacher--better now, but I used to have zero patience with kids who couldn't grasp concepts that were, to me, blindingly obvious. This is the perfect example of why assigning a gifted kid to tutor another is a really bad idea.

Actually, I tended to pull out a book and read in class if I was done with assignments (which makes it silly that I was surprised that my daughter does the same, lol). Some teachers were fine with it, some were vastly annoyed (I had one take my book away and throw it and yell at me despite the fact that I'd finished all assigned work..I started napping in his class instead of reading...)

nicoleandmaggie said...

One of the main reasons we needed to start K a year early is because at Pre-K they told us if he stayed he would be teaching his peers the entire year, something he was already doing on a part-time basis.

Anonymous said...

I tutored in high school and college, but I did it voluntarily. Without being asked by a teacher. BTW, educators are not the only ones who are guilty of using a gifted kid as an unpaid tutor. The most dreadful tutoring experiences I'd had as a kid was when I had to tutor my younger brother at my mother's behest. Bad idea. It's hard enough for a parent to get a kid to do extra work when he wants to play video games, let alone another kid. Instead of learning something, all we ended up doing was fighting. Thankfully, it didn't last very long.

AJ said...

I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. On a related note- I find it frustrating our preschooler's teacher lets her be on her own a lot, instead of proactively engaging her. Our 3 3/4 yo is self sufficient, well spoken and plays well with the other children. Can someone share their thoughts on what we can expect from Pre-K three mornings /week? I haven't determined she is gifted per se, but she is way ahead of her peers in cognitive skills. We don't want the next 1 1/2 yr in current environment to encourage her love of connecting and learning.

AJ said...

*DIScourage