USING PEER TUTORS WITH AT RISK HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS: A CASE STUDY OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PERSONAL ASSISTED LEARNING (PAL) IN A SPECIAL MSPINNYC SUMMER COURSE
York College City University of New York (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:The Personal Assisted Learning (PAL) program is a special peer tutoring model associated with the Math and Science Partnership in New York City (MSPinNYC) research and evaluation team. PAL is a program that trains more advanced peer tutors, those who have passed the Integrated Algebra or the Living Environment Science (Biology) course and the state Regents exams with a minimum of a 75, to help underachieving and historically at risk inner city, urban students, those who have failed the course or the state exam at least once, attain success in high school math and science. Many of these at risk or failing students are English Language Learners (ELLs). Preliminary results of the success of this program are substantial. Twenty percent more students passed their exams at the Regents level in classes participating in the program compared to students in a range of control groups.
However, there has not been a consistent investigation of the success of the model on ELLs. In this study, tutors who were bilingual were identified. Although tutors received a three day training orientation before the program began, with subsequent daily seminars with the content area teachers (Math or Biology), they were not specifically trained in ELL strategies or techniques.
The focus of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of peer tutors on English Language Learners (ELLs) in this five week summer program. Tutors were assigned to work with ELLs in small group settings. While some of the tutors were former ELLs themselves (bilingual), others were English only speakers. Observations throughout the summer focused on the small group interactions with the tutors. Observed behaviors included how the tutors incorporated previous knowledge, made use of supplemental materials, and where possible, how the primary language was used. Special attention was paid to this last criterion.
Two questions emerged in the planning of this study. The first question was whether or not the bilingual tutors would exhibit behaviors that have been found productive with ELLs and make more use of the strategies that are consistent with the research on ELLs and content learning (Johnson, 2009; McDonnough & Choo, 2009; Corder, 2007 Fathman & Crowther, 2006; Meltzer & Hamann, 2005; Lager, 2004; Lincoln & Beller, 2004; Gutierrez, 2002). Did the bilingual tutors exhibit behaviors or use more ELL-centered approaches in their tutoring than the monolingual tutors?
The second question dealt with the use of the primary language in the tutoring sessions. Since some tutors were not bilingual, it was of particular interest to the researchers to investigate whether or not the bilingual tutors, those with the ability to clarify information, to answer questions and to promote higher level thinking in the primary language, would produce different results in their students’ learning and attitudes towards the subject matter. In other words, were the bilingual tutors more successful in helping their students make sense of the required concepts or gain a better understanding of math and science to pass the state Regents exam at the end of the summer program? Did their linguistic abilities help at-risk ELL students achieve success (passing the state Regents Exams)? Were at risk student attitudes toward the subject matter improved?
Data was collected through surveys, observations and focus group interviews throughout the summer session.