The study was conducted in one school district in Texas. All students were enrolled in bilingual education classrooms in grades 3–6.
Twelve classrooms from grades 3–6 in one Texas school district were stratified based on grade level and school. Classrooms were then randomly assigned to either the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies condition or the comparison condition. For a classroom to be eligible for the study, all students had to be English language learners, and at least two students had to have a learning disability (LD). Outcome data were collected on 11 students in each class: two students with LD, three low-achieving (LA) students, three average-achieving (AA) students, and three high-achieving (HA) students. The learning disability group is not included in this review since another WWC topic area will review those results. The students were categorized into LA, AA, and HA based on teachers’ ranking according to classroom observations, previous scores on minimum state standards competency exams, and district-required informal reading inventories. LA students were in the lowest quartile of the class rank, AA in the middle half, and HA in the top quartile. The baseline sample included in this review consisted of 12 classrooms (six Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and six comparison) and a total of 108 native Spanish-speaking students (54 Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and 54 comparison) in grades 3–6. Of the 54 students in each condition, 18 were low achievers, 18 were average achievers, and 18 were high achievers. The analysis sample included in this review consisted of 12 classrooms (six Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and six comparison) and 99 students (49 Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and 50 comparison). Of the 49 Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies students in the analysis sample, 15 were low achievers, 17 were average achievers, and 18 were high achievers. Of the 50 comparison students in the analysis sample, 18 were low achievers, 18 were average achievers, and 14 were high achievers.
Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies sessions were conducted three times a week for 15 weeks. Each Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies session lasted for 25–35 minutes and occurred during regular reading instruction periods. Teachers ranked students by their reading achievement (high versus low) and paired a higher-achieving student with a lower-achieving student. Students were assigned a new partner about once a month. During Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, pairs of students engaged in three reading activities: partner reading and retelling, paragraph shrinking, and prediction relay. In all three activities, students took 5-minute turns of being tutor and tutee. During partner reading and retelling, the better reader read aloud for five minutes while the weaker reader served as the tutor, who identified errors and corrected them. The weaker reader reread the same material for the next five minutes and retold what was read. During paragraph shrinking, each student read aloud for five minutes, stopping after each paragraph to summarize what was read. During prediction relay, the reader made a prediction before reading, read half a page, checked the prediction, and summarized using paragraph shrinking. Pairs earned points for correct or accurate responses during activities.
Teachers in the comparison group provided the district’s regular curriculum for reading instruction. Lesson plans for both the intervention and comparison classrooms were reviewed twice during the study to assess the type of instruction provided. The study found that Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies teachers were more likely than comparison teachers to use one-on-one instruction, and no statistical differences were found in small-group instruction, whole-class instruction, and independent seatwork. The study found that Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies teachers were more likely than comparison teachers to use peer-mediated instruction and less likely to use teacher-led instruction.
The study measures in the reading achievement domain were three subtests of the Comprehensive Reading Assessment Battery. The subscales used were Word Correct, Maze Choices Correct, and Comprehension Questions Correct. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix A2.
Support for implementation
Teachers assigned to the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies condition were trained by research assistants during a full-day workshop. Teachers were given an overview of Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies as well as opportunities to practice Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies procedures. Training emphasized how teachers could train their students to implement Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies. Upon conclusion of the workshop, teachers received a comprehensive Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies manual. The manual included scripted lessons that could be used when training students on Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies procedures. As part of this study, research assistants provided daily technical assistance to Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies teachers during the five weeks during which teachers trained students on Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies procedures. At the completion of student training, research assistants provided weekly technical assistance for the duration of Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies implementation.