The best way to learn is to teach. This is the message emerging from experiments in several schools in which teenage pupils who have problems at school themselves 5 are tutoring younger children - with remarkable results for both sides.
According to American research, pupil-tutoring wins 'hands down' over computerised instruction and American teachers say that no other recent innovation has proved so consistently successful.
Now the idea is spreading in Britain. Throughout this term, a group of 14-year- olds at Trinity comprehensive in Leamington Spa have been spending an hour a week helping children at a nearby primary school with their reading. The younger children read aloud to their tutors (who are supervised by university students of education) and then play word games with them.
All the 14-year-olds have some of their
own lessons in a special unit for children who have difficulties at school. Though their intelligence is around average, most of them have fallen behind on reading, writing and maths and, in some cases, this has led to truancy or bad behaviour in class.
Jean Bond, who is running the special unit while on sabbatical from Warwick University's education department, says that the main benefit of tutoring is that it improves the adolescents' self-esteem. 'The younger children come rushing up every time and welcome them. It makes the tutors feel important whereas, in normal school lessons, they often feel inadequate. Everyone benefits. The older children need practice in reading but, if they had to do it in their own classes, they would say it was kids' stuff and be worried about losing face. The younger children get individual attention from very patient people. The tutors are struggling at school themselves so, when the younger ones can't learn, they know exactly why.'
The tutors agree. 'When I was little, I used to skive and say I couldn't do things when I really could,' says Mark Greger. 'The boy I've been teaching does the same. He says he can't read a page of his book so I tell him that, if he does do it, we can play a game. That works.'
The younger children speak warmly of their new teachers. 'He doesn't shout like other teachers,' says eight-year-old Jenny of her tutor, Cliff McFarlane who, among his own teachers, has a reputation for being a handful. Yet Cliff sees himself as a tough teacher. 'If they get a word wrong,' he says, 'I keep them at it until they get it right.' Jean Bond, who describes pupil tutoring as an 'educational conjuring trick', has run two previous experiments. In one, six persistent truants, aged 15 upwards, tutored 12 slow-learning infants in reading and maths. None of the six played truant from any of the tutoring sessions. 'The degree of concentration they showed while working with their
tutees was remarkable for pupils who had previously shown little ability to concentrate on anything related to school work for any period of time,' says Bond. The tutors became 'reliable, conscientious caring individuals'. Their own reading, previously mechanical and monotonous, became far more expressive as a result of reading stories aloud to infants. Their view of education, which they had previously dismissed as 'crap' and 'a waste of time', was transformed. They became firmly resolved to teach their own children to read before starting school because, as one of them put it, 'if they go for a job and they can't write, they're not going to employ you, are they?' The tutors also became more sympathetic to their own teachers' difficulties, because they were frustrated themselves when the infants 'mucked about'.
In the Seven weeks of the experiment, concludes Bond, 'these pupils received more recognition, reward and feelings of worth than they had previously experienced in many years of formal schooling.' And the infants, according to their own teachers, showed measurable gains in reading skills by the end of the scheme.
from an article by Peter Wilby in the Sunday Times
Exercise 13:Complete these statements by choosing the answer which you think fits best.
1. The majority of the tutors in the Trinity experiment are pupils who
a. cause discipline problems for their teachers.
b. frequently stay away from school
c. are below standard in basic skills
d. are unable to read or write
2. According to the writer, the tutors wouldn't normally practise reading in class because
a. they would find it humiliating
b. they wouldn't be able to concentrate
c. their teachers wouldn't consider it necessary
d. their teachers would get impatient with them
3. The main reason that the tutors make such successful teachers seems to be that
a. they enjoy being the centre of attention
b. they can relate to their pupils' problems
c. they are never strict with their pupils
d. pupils enjoy playing games with them
4. Pupil tutoring is described as 'an educational conjuring trick' because
a. no one understands why it works so well
b. it has caught the attention of the media
c. educational authorities are suspicious of it
d. it is a simple idea with extraordinary results
5. The most significant result of the experiments so far carried out seems to have been that the tutors
a. learnt to overcome their fear of reading aloud
b. improved their pupils' ability to concentrate
c. benefited from an increase in their self-respect
d. came to see the importance of the writing skill
Exercise 14:Match the sentences to the gaps in the text below. There is one spare sentence.