WWC review of this study

Peer-assisted learning strategies: Making classrooms more responsive to diversity.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Mathes, P. G., & Simmons, D. C. (1997). American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 174-206. doi:10.3102/00028312034001174 Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED393269

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
     examining 
    120
     Students
    , grades
    2-6
No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: June 2012

Comprehension outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Comprehension Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB): Questions Correct

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies vs. business as usual

Posttest

Grades 2-6;
40 students

5.63

4.15

No

 
 
23
Reading fluency outcomes—Substantively important positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Comprehension Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB): Maze Choices Correct

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies vs. business as usual

Posttest

Grades 2-6;
40 students

11

8.6

No

 
 
16
More Outcomes

Comprehension Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB): Words Correct

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies vs. business as usual

Posttest

Grades 2-6;
40 students

253.28

230.88

No

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Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 37%
    Male: 63%
  • Race
    White
    78%
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    South

Setting

The study was conducted in 12 elementary schools from three school districts in a southern state in the United States.

Study sample

The sample for this study included a total of 120 students—40 low-performing students with learning disabilities, 40 low-performing students without learning disabilities, and 40 averageperforming students. The students were in grades 2–6, and the average age was 10. This report reviews findings for only the 40 students with learning disabilities. The study design was a randomized controlled trial in which 22 schools in a southern state in the United States were categorized as high, middle, or low based on mean reading scores and the percentage of students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Within each of these three groups, schools were randomly assigned to either PALS or comparison conditions. After randomization of schools, teachers who had one or more students with learning disabilities in their reading class were recruited to participate in the study. The recruitment efforts resulted in a sample of 40 teachers (20 PALS and 20 comparison) from 12 of the 22 schools. Each of the 40 teachers was then asked to identify three students to participate in the study: one low-performing student with a learning disability (identified in accordance with state regulations), one lowperforming student who did not have a learning disability, and one average-performing student.While schools were randomly assigned to groups, this study was reviewed as a quasi-experimental design because teachers knew their treatment condition when they selected student participants. In addition, teachers were only recruited after random assignment (although teachers were not told their condition during recruitment), and 10 of the schools that were randomized had no eligible teachers. The remaining 12 schools participated throughout the study and included 40 teachers and 40 students with learning disabilities. The PALS and comparison schools in the analysis differed on some measures (such as the percentage of rural schools); however, the principal investigator concluded that the environments were similar based on important measures such as poverty and achievement.

Intervention Group

PALS was conducted during regularly scheduled reading instruction, 35 minutes per day, three times per week, for 15 weeks. Students were trained to be PALS tutors and tutees in five 45-minute sessions during the week prior to the start of the intervention.

Comparison Group

Comparison teachers conducted reading lessons using their normal approach (business-as-usual).

Outcome descriptions

The study authors assessed students with the Comprehensive Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB) at the pretest and posttest time points. Reading fluency was measured by the Words Correct (number of words read correctly in three minutes across two passages) and Maze Choices (number of correct maze replacements in two minutes) subscales of the CRAB. Reading comprehension was measured by the Questions Correct subscale of the CRAB (average number of questions answered correctly across two 10-question samples). For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

PALS teachers were trained at a full-day workshop at which they learned both about PALS procedures and how to train their students on PALS. At the end of the workshop, teachers were given a PALS manual that included scripted lessons to be used when conducting student training.

Reviewed: May 2012

Study sample characteristics were not reported.
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: January 2012

Comprehension outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Comprehension Reading Assessment Battery (CRAB): Questions Correct

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies vs. Business as usual

Posttest

Average age: 9.8 years;
120 students

6.02

5.18

Yes

 
 
18

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 45%
    Male: 55%
  • Race
    White
    83%

  • Suburban, Urban
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    South

Setting

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.

 

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