Key Takeaway: The implication of this study for educators is that utilizing peer-mediated interventions, within academic, SEL, and executive function lessons, is once again proven an evidence-based approach to increasing academic gains. Peer-mediated interventions may also have positive indirect effects on social-behavioral outcomes. —Erin Madonna
The primary purpose of this meta-analytic study by Moeyaert et al. (2019) was to contribute to the body of evidence addressing peer-tutoring’s impact on academic skill growth and social-behavior outcomes. This particular analysis investigated the direct and indirect effects of peer tutoring on students at risk of low achievement and students with disabilities, resulting in statistically significant implications for special education practice.
The majority of the study participants were students with behavior disorders (36.59%), followed by students at risk or low achieving (29.1%), students with autism spectrum disorders (13.39%), students with learning disabilities (11.91%), students with intellectual disabilities (6.86%), and students who were deaf (1.95%). Of the 46 studies included, 13 focused on classwide peer-tutoring, 12 looked into reciprocal peer-tutoring models, and 21 reviewed the effects of non-reciprocal peer tutoring. Four moderators were factored into the analysis, including gender, age, study quality, and disability.
Both the direct effects on academic performance and the indirect effects on social-behavior outcomes were measured.
A large and statistically significant intervention effect size was noted for academic outcomes with social outcomes also seeing large effect sizes, just not to the magnitude of the academic results. While not statistically significant, there was some evidence found that the impact of the peer-mediated intervention may increase over time for academic skills. This trend was not observed for social-behavior outcomes.
Peer-mediated interventions were found more effective for older students, age 10 and older. The gender effect was also observed to be large, indicating that peer-mediated interventions may be more impactful for female students than for male students. When moderating for disability, the largest effect size noted for academic skills was in the participant group identified as at-risk or low achieving. Students with learning disabilities saw the greatest indirect impact on social-behavioral outcomes.
“For both academic and social outcomes, peer tutoring is less effective for children with intellectual disability.”
The authors conclude by addressing some limitations and implications of their study:
- There was significant variability between the social outcomes measured in the included studies. As a result, comparison of the social-behavior outcomes is more challenging than comparisons of academic skill development. This is a potential avenue for future research to explore further.
- Alternative models of peer-mediated interventions, specifically addressing peer interaction, may have more impact on social-behavior outcomes than peer tutoring focused primarily on academic skills.
- “Educators seeking to address the academic and social-behavioral outcomes of students with disabilities may wish to combine more than one type of peer-mediated interventions to concurrently improve the student’s academic and social-behavioral skills.”
- “Further research is needed to determine the maintenance of the effects of peer tutoring and to establish whether the effects generalize to other outcomes.”
Despite the limitations “practitioners can consider peer tutoring as an evidence-based approach for improving the level or trend in students’ academic skills and level of students’ social-behavioral outcomes.”
Moeyaert, M., Klingbeil, D. A., Rodabaugh, E., & Turan, M. (2019). Three-level meta-analysis of single-case data regarding the effects of peer tutoring on academic and social-behavioral outcomes for at-risk students and students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 0741932519855079.
Summary by: Erin Madonna— Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted belief that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.