WWC review of this study

Importance of instructional complexity and role reciprocity to classwide peer tutoring.

Simmons, D., Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Hodge, J. P., & Mathes, P. G. (1994). Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 9 (4), 203–212. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ494855

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grades
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: January 2012

Comprehension outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Comprehension Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB): Questions Correct

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies vs. Business as usual


Average age: 9.8 years;
120 students





Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 45%
    Male: 55%
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  • Suburban, Urban
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The study took place in 12 elementary and middle schools across three districts of a southern state. Six schools were part of a large urban school system; six were in two suburban districts.

Study sample

Researchers divided 22 elementary and middle schools into high-level, middle-level, and lowlevel groups and then randomly assigned each school to either Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies or the control condition within each group. High-level schools had a relatively high mean reading score and comparatively low proportion of students on free or reduced-price lunch; low-level schools had the reverse profile; and middle-level schools fell between the two on both indices. After random assignment of the 22 schools, 40 teacher volunteers in 12 schools (55% of the schools randomly assigned11) were selected to participate in the study. These 12 schools were equally divided between Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and the control condition and among the high-, mid-, and low-level designations (4 schools in each strata). These 40 teachers, 20 in each condition, taught grades 2–6 and were selected according to their reading class composition (classes needed at least one learning disabled student to be eligible). After random assignment was conducted, each teacher identified three students to participate in the study: a low achiever with a learning disability, a low achiever without a learning disability, and an average achiever. Participating students’ average age was 9.78 years. In a majority of classes, teachers also identified replacement students in the event that the originally identified students moved away. This review focused on comparisons across student type and included 60 students in the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies group and 60 students in the comparison group.9

Intervention Group

Twenty teachers implemented Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies during regularly scheduled reading instruction, three times per week for 35 minutes each time. The study reported students’ outcomes after 15 weeks of program implementation. Students engaged in three reading activities: partner reading with retell, paragraph summary, and prediction relay. During the first activity, each partner read aloud connected text for 5 minutes, for a total of 10 minutes. “Retells” lasted 1 or 2 minutes, depending on grade level. In the first 4 weeks of Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, paragraph summary (also called paragraph “shrinking”) was conducted for 20 minutes. During the next 11 weeks, time for paragraph summary was reduced by half to make room for prediction relay. Teachers relied on their basal text for primary reading materials.

Comparison Group

Twenty comparison teachers conducted reading instruction in their typical fashion. A majority used the basal reading series prescribed by their school districts. Reading instruction usually meant students reading silently from the basal texts, followed by teacher-led, large-group discussion. Researchers observed little explicit teaching of reading and comprehension in Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and comparison classrooms.

Outcome descriptions

For both the pretest and the posttest, students took the Comprehensive Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB), which generated three scores: the number of words, questions, and maze choices correct. Only the number of questions correct outcome qualified for this report. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

Teachers attended a full-day workshop, during which they were shown how to use the program with their students and maintain Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies activities during the 15-week treatment. After the workshop, Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies project staff attended seven 45-minute lessons being taught by study treatment group teachers to provide help to teachers as necessary. These seven training sessions were not counted as part of the 15-week treatment.

Reviewed: July 2007

Study sample characteristics were not reported.

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