Why Gifted Students Shouldn't Be Used as In-Class Tutors
Many teachers believe that peer tutoring is helpful both to the student doing the tutoring as well as to the student being tutored. But research shows that when a high-ability student tutors a lower-ability classmate, only the achievement of the low-ability student is improved.
Gifted education experts also warn that routinely using gifted students to help low-ability students can harm the gifted students.
High-ability students who spend too much of their time working as peer tutors, rather than tackling a more advanced curriculum, are being denied critical academic challenges. Like other students, gifted students need consistent opportunities to "learn through real struggle." (Tracking, Ability-Grouping and the Gifted.)
Teachers are particularly cautioned against using advanced math students to teach less-advanced classmates.
When advanced math students already understand the material being presented, nothing is gained by having them spend additional time on the concepts - whether as a student or a peer-teacher. As math education expert Susan Assouline instructs, "Simply put, it is not a good use of talented students' time to tutor others instead of learning something new."
Additionally, gifted expert Karen Rogers cautions that when peer tutoring involves work that a gifted child knows and the other student doesn't, neither student is likely to benefit:
"The 'knower,' not being a trained teacher, will merely give the 'non-knower' the information to be copied and turned in, and she will learn nothing new for herself. For this kind of task, using the child as a second teacher may be pure exploitation of the bright child."
If you think your child is being used as a peer tutor more than is reasonable, you need to explain your concerns to his or her teacher.
Your request that your child not be routinely employed as a tutor is more likely to be successful if you suggest alternative uses of your child's time that won't require additional work by the teacher, such as having your child work on an advanced curriculum through an on-line program.
------------------------------------------------------------------------- Suggestions for further reading:
Tracking, Ability Grouping and the Gifted, Philadelphia Association for the Gifted, http://www.penngifted.org/tracking.cfm.
Developing Math Talent, by Susan Assouline and Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
Re-Forming Gifted Education, by Karen B. Rogers, Ph.D.
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Myth: Ability grouping is unnecessary for high-ability students and harmful to other students.
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Myth: Mixed-ability "cooperative learning" benefits gifted students.
Myth: Simply "clustering" gifted students in a classroom will meet their needs.
Myth: Gifted students are needed as role models in regular classrooms.
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