Program

Dec 15, 2010

OVERVIEW

Peer-Assisted
Learning Strategies (PALS) is an intervention that utilizes the help of advanced
students for assisting in the development of children with greater education
needs in the fields of reading and math. In a random assignment study of 12
elementary and middle schools, teachers within each school were assigned to
either implement the PALS program during second through six grade reading
lessons or to continue using their standard reading teaching strategies.
Results indicated that there was a significantly greater increase in reading
comprehension from pre- to post-test for students receiving the PALS
intervention compared to students in the control group. The study also found
that the intervention was effective regardless of whether the student had a
reading learning disability, was a below average reader, or was an average
reader.

DESCRIPTION
OF PROGRAM

Target
population: 
Children in preschool through high school who have difficulties
in reading or math.

Peer-Assisted
Learning Strategies (PALS) is an intervention that utilizes the help of more
advanced students for assisting in the development of children with greater
education needs. The program combines peer tutoring with instructional
principals and techniques. Specific techniques vary depending on the grade
level and domain of focus. Teachers pair students based on skill levels and
social compatibility. In each pair, one student serves as the “coach,” while
the other is the “player.” Teachers make pairings by ranking all the children
in the class on reading capabilities and splitting the list in half. The
teacher then pair the two most capable students from each list, the second two
most capable, and so on. Pairs are changed frequently so that each student
eventually has the opportunity to be both a coach and a player. PALS reading
activities include partner reading with retell, paragraph summary, and
prediction relay. Partner reading with retell requires coaches and players to
read out loud to one another in order to increase oral reading fluency. As one
student reads, the other assists the student with word recognition errors.
Paragraph summary fosters summarizing and main idea identification skills.
Prediction relay requires students to make predictions about what will happen
later on in the stories. This technique encourages students to use their
summarizing and main idea identification skills to make logical inferences about
the stories. There is also a team competition component of PALS, which splits
the class into two teams and rewards team points when individuals are successful
in their reading exercises. The intervention is typically implemented two to
four times per week for 25 to 35 minutes a session, but schedules may vary based
on subject matter and grade level.

EVALUATION(S)
OF PROGRAM

Fuchs, D. Fuchs,
L. S., Mathes, P. G., & Simmons, D. C. (1997). Peer-assisted learning
strategies: Making classrooms more responsive to diversity. American
Educational Research Journal, 34,
174-206.

Evaluated
population: 
Second through sixth grade reading teachers and their students
from 12 elementary and middle schools, stratified based on a combination of
student achievement and family income, served as the sample for this
evaluation. Twenty teachers in six of the schools were assigned to implement
the PALS program, and 20 teachers from the remaining six schools were assigned
to the control condition. Each teacher identified three student participants,
one from each of the following categories: 1) A student with a certified
learning disability in reading, 2) a nondisabled but low performing reading
student, and 3) and an average-achieving reader. These, 120 individuals served
as the evaluated sample.

Approach:
Each of the 22 participating schools were randomly assigned to have all
participating teachers implement the PALS program or to be in the control
group. The six schools in the control group did not instruct their
participating teachers to change their teaching techniques; therefore, these
teachers implemented their standard reading lessons.

The entire student
sample was assessed for reading comprehension ability prior to implementation of
the PALS intervention. In order to assess changes in ability, they were
assessed again immediately after the completion of the 15 week treatment.

Results:
Results indicated that there was greater increase in reading comprehension from
pre- to post-test for student receiving the PALS intervention compared to
students in the control group. The study also found that these results were not
mediated by student type; therefore, the intervention was effective regardless
of whether the student had a reading learning disability, was a below average
reader, or was an average reader.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Fuchs, D. Fuchs, L.
S., Mathes, P. G., & Simmons, D. C. (1997). Peer-assisted learning strategies:
Making classrooms more responsive to diversity. American Educational Research
Journal, 34,
174-206.

Information on implementing this
program can be obtained from:

Loulee Yen

PALS Outreach

Vanderbilt
University

Peabody Box 328

230 Appleton Place

Nashville, TN
32703-5701

Phone: (615)
343-4782

E-mail:
PALS@vanderbilt.edu

KEYWORDS: Children
(3-11); Adolescents (12-17); Co-ed Reading; Tutoring; Preschool; Elementary; Middle School; High School; Education; Academic Achievement.

Program information last updated on 12/15/10.

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