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The Effectiveness of Peer Tutoring with Associative Cognitive Aids

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    Abstract Peer Tutoring has been shown an effective learning strategy and innovate solution in multidisciplinary classroom structures. As teachers seek productive methods to incorporate meaningful learning and maintain efficient time management in the classroom, peer tutoring has been implemented as an effective option. Through the process of peer tutoring, the tutor and the tutee both gain individualized skills, immediate performance feedback, continuous progress monitoring, increased peer relationships and self-esteem improvement.

    With such a strong record of effectiveness, this study proposes an examination of the effectiveness of peer tutoring in relation to long term memory storage as students memorize the names of states and capitals with specialized association cards from the Bornstein Memory Institute versus standard 4×6 flashcards. Utilization of Peer Tutoring with Visual and Verbal Associative Aids to Enhance Long-Term Memory Storage

    As the emphasis of providing individualized instruction to students with differing learning abilities has developed in recent years, educators have encountered the challenge of meeting specific and individualized instruction goals in over-crowded classrooms with fewer resources. The need for positive social interaction within a more cohesive and productive educational atmosphere has led researchers and educators to formulate programs utilizing multidisciplinary collaboration to integrate all populations in the classroom (Heron et al. , 2006). Peer tutoring is one such strategy (Pigott et al. 1986; Greenwood et al. , 1991). Endeavoring to build a cooperative learning environment in the classroom, wherein students work together toward a common goal with the result being an evidence-based education that meets each individual needs is the goal of a multidisciplinary collaboration (Hardman, Drew, & Egan, 2008). Included in this collaboration is the utilization of peers as tutors to build academic and social support in the classroom. Both individual learning and cooperative learning is emphasized as the students work together toward a specific goal (Greenwood, Carta, Kamps, & Hall, 1988).

    As previous research has documented, the cooperative effort of learning builds self-esteem in the classroom, increases engaged academic time, provides immediate performance feedback for improvement, utilizes effective time management, and leads to greater academic gains (Topping, 2005; Greenwood et al. , 1988; Ormrod, 2008). With increasing research studies supporting peer mediated teaching as an effective implementation in academic and social activities, various methods of peer tutoring have developed.

    Authors Menesses and Gresham (2009) examine the efficacy of Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) and Nonreciprocal Peer Tutoring (NPT) for classroom students. In their study, the researchers investigated which program would result in greater academic gains for students at risk for academic failure. Developed by Fantuzzo and colleagues, Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) alternates students between the role of tutor and tutee during peer tutoring sessions (Fantuzzo, King, & Heller, 1992). Each pair of students work together to question, prompt, evaluate and monitor each other during specified academic skill learning.

    Nonreciprocal Peer Tutoring (NPT) incorporates one-way peer tutoring in which one student remains in the role of tutor while the other student remains the tutee. Using math problems on 3” x 5” index cards, Menesses and Gresham (2009) conducted their study in elementary classrooms; random assignments of RPT, NPT or no peer tutoring (control) were assigned to each classroom. As predicted, the students participating in RPT and NPT outperformed the control group in academic gain but only the tutees in the NPT group showed significant increase in their peer tutoring pairs.

    Thus, reciprocal tutoring (RPT) is more efficient than nonreciprocal tutoring (NPT) as both the tutor and tutee demonstrate academic gains simultaneously (Robinson et al, 2005). Researchers Harper and Maheady (2007) combined two peer-teaching procedures and three strategies into a hybrid peer tutoring program implementation. In the first procedure, Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT), students were assigned to different pairs each week with each pair on an opposing team (Greenwood, et al. , 1991).

    Using weekly study guides, a deck of cards and paper, each team answered questions to earn points toward a cumulative team total, which resulted in the highest scoring group being recognized as the “Winning Team of the Week” (Harper & Maheady, 2007). The researchers also implemented Numbered Heads Together (NHT), which incorporated cooperative learning with in-group contests. Each pair worked with another pair to form a team. Each team collaborated to structure their best answer in reply to a question given by the teacher.

    One group member was chosen randomly by the teacher to give the group’s answer to the question while each member worked to ensure a correct answer. Each correct answer earned team points. Results revealed that student quiz scores increased with the utilization of Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) with Numbered Heads Together (NHT) and students of all learning abilities benefited. In a study conducted with sixth grade students, researchers Hughes and Fredrick (2006) examined the effectiveness of Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) in combination with constant time delay in teaching vocabulary.

    Eighteen students were chosen for the study targeting vocabulary retention in a seven-week period. Students were divided into pairs consisting of a student with stronger academic skills with a student with weaker skills. Vocabulary words were written on index cards and each pair of students were trained to give appropriate praise and feedback as they quizzed their partner with time delay. The teacher awarded each pair with points for correct responses and good tutoring behaviors. Hughes and Fredrick’s (2006) research study revealed higher levels of mastery of vocabulary word sets practiced during peer tutoring.

    All students indicated on social validity surveys that peer tutoring helped them learn more vocabulary words than previous methods and 90% of student’s retention levels increased through the cooperative learning of peer tutoring. In addition, social interaction increased among students and excitement for the program remained high after the seven-week research period. As these research studies suggest, peer tutoring in its various forms is an effective learning strategy that encourages academic growth, cooperative learning, and efficient management of classroom time.

    In regard to methodology, many of the peer-mediated studies utilized standard index cards as tools for memorization. The more efficient peer tutoring method, reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT), often is conducted with standard index cards for students to memorize new information such as multiplication facts or new vocabulary words in a repetitive or rote learning style. As noted by author Jeanne Ormrod (2008), rote learning is usually not connected with meaningful information or previous knowledge, which comprises the ability of the student to store such information in long-term memory.

    None of the previous studies utilized associative cognitive processes to increase the probability of long-term memory storage of new information with peer-mediated instruction. One such cognitive process which enhances long-term memory storage is visual imagery. As noted by author Ormrod (2008) visual information can be remarkably accurate in memory. Presenting information using visual images such as pictures, objects, diagrams and maps will enhance storage of new information especially when combined with verbal material (Small, Lovett, & Scher, 1993; Gary & Gerrie, 2005).

    Ormrod (2008) cites research studies that indicate a student’s memory storage for visual material is better than verbal material and when new information is presented in both visual and verbal forms, the information is stored even more efficiently (Clark & Paivio, 1991; Dewhurst & Conway, 1994; Edens & McCormick, 2000). Visual imagery utilized as an aid in learning should always be relevant to the material and should be simple and concise so as to not overwhelm the student with too much visual detail (Butcher, 2006).

    Colorful images are preferred over black and white images as they are more memorable. Visual aids, when presented in ideas as they relate to one another, provide a more meaningful context for memory (Levin & Mayer, 1993). Visual imagery is most effective when a connection between the new items is integrated into the same visual aid in some form of interaction (Bower, 1972; Dempster & Rohwer, 1974). Arthur Bornstein (1998) also known as the “Memory Professor” has developed visual memorization cards that employ the keyword method as associations for memorizing facts.

    The keyword method is a combination of visual imagery and verbal mediation, which has been shown effective in teaching paired associates such as states and their capitals. Mr. Bornstein has developed memorization card sets to illustrate associations for addition facts, multiplication facts, spelling words and states with their capitals. On the front of each card is a visual image depicting an association for memorization and the back of the card presents the keyword method in a sentence.

    For example, to learn that the capital of Virginia is Richmond, Bornstein’s card shows a colorful cartoon illustration of a plump, wealthy man with a bride at his side. The bride is holding a heart with the words, ‘Virginia + Rich’ while the man’s tie has a large dollar sign. As the student studies the visual image, a teacher or peer tutor reads the verbal association or keyword on the back of the card, “Virginia married a Rich Man” and the student repeats the verbal association. The peer tutor or teacher then states, “The capital of Virginia is Richmond. After which, the student is asked, “What is the capital of Virginia? ” or “Richmond is the capital of what state? ” Most peer-mediated methods for fact memorization use standard index cards without colorful, relevant visual images or keyword associations. As the literature reported, peer tutoring is an effective instructional procedure that promotes mastery, accuracy and fluency in the classroom. Combining the effectiveness of peer tutoring, specifically Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with visual associative and verbal keyword devices has not been studied in previous literature.

    As such, this proposed research experiment will directly compare Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with standard index cards and Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with Bornstein Memory Cards to determine which program will result in greater academic gains and more efficient storage in long-term memory. Proposed Research Project Method Participants and Setting Participants will be fifth grade students enrolled in an elementary school in Southern California. The school’s enrollment is approximately 600 students in Kindergarten through fifth grade; 44% of students are Hispanic, 29% African American, 25% Caucasian and 2% are classified as other.

    Seventy-nine percent of students qualify for free lunches. The school has three fifth grade classrooms with 30 – 32 students per class. Per the Leave No Child Behind Act (2001), all students receive integrated educational services in the least restrictive environment so each classroom has exceptional learners in the general population. Thus, student’s learning abilities have varying differences and requirements within each classroom. Each fifth grade classroom will participate in the study. Class A will act as the control group and not receive peer mediated instruction, visual aids or verbal keyword instruction.

    Class B will participate in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with standard 3”x5” index cards printed with the name of a state on one side and its capital on the reverse. Class C will participate in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with Bornstein’s State and Capitals Memorization Cards. Screening Pre- Quiz of State and Capitals in matching format administered to each fifth grade student before implementation of Reciprocal Peer Tutoring. Each quiz contains 50 matching items with a two-point value per item. Students complete the paper quiz by correctly matching each state to its capital.

    Materials Class A, acting as the control group, will not receive index cards, Bornstein’s Memorization Cards or participate in reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT). Class B will participate in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) with standard 3”x5” index cards. Each card will have the name of the state printed on the front of the card and the name of its capital on the reverse. No visual imagery or keyword associations will accompany the standard index card format. Class C will participate in Reciprocal Peer Tutoring (RPT) and employ the Bornstein States and Capitals Memorization Cards.

    Each Bornstein Card measures 8”x11” with a colorful visual cartoon image on the front of each card depicting an association for the state and capital. Printed on the bottom right-hand corner of each card front is the name of the state and its capital. The reverse side of the Bornstein card contains a verbal association using the verbal keyword mediation in a sentence. Included with the keyword association, two questions are written as prompts to verbalize the name of the capital and the state. Procedures Class A will receive conventional teacher-led instruction without peer mediated instruction or visual imagery.

    The Pre-Quiz on States and Capitals will be administered to students in Class A as a control measure. Both Class B and Class C will participate in reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT) thus students in these classes will receive peer mediated instruction training using the “tell,” “show,” “do” approach as modified from Telecsan et al. , (1999). After receiving training from the research author, each teacher will explain the roles in reciprocal peer tutoring to the students. Tutor Training Each teacher will demonstrate the RPT process by presenting the first four state and capital cards as a whole class activity.

    After adequate illustration, the teacher will call on individual students to participate as the tutee and/or tutor in a demonstrated role-play scenario before the class. Tutor’s will then learn the six required tutoring techniques: (1) begin when timer is set, (2) present each card for five seconds (3) provide verbal association, (4) provide praise and/or correction, (5) shuffle cards, and (6) continue until timer rings (Menesses & Gresham, 2009). Class B Procedure with Standard 3”x5” cards Class B students will receive instruction with the standard 3”x5” index cards.

    Each RPT pair will begin with four state and capital cards and a timer set for two minutes. The tutor will present the front of the card with the name of the state and verbally ask, “What is the capital of Alabama? ” The tutor will pause for the tutee’s response. If none is given after five seconds, the tutor then turns the card over and presents the answer while verbally stating, “Montgomery is the capital of Alabama” which the tutee will repeat. This procedure continues using a set of four state and capital index cards for two minutes.

    The tutor shuffles the cards and continues this process until the timer rings. Once the timer rings, the students reverse roles as tutor and tutee and follow the same two-minute routine. After both students complete the reciprocal peer tutoring instruction, the students quiz each other with the index cards. During the quiz, each student presents an index card for three seconds without any verbalization and places the cards into correct or incorrect piles depending on the answer given. Each student is awarded points for correct answers, which are recorded in a journal.

    Class C Procedure with Bornstein Memorization Cards Class C students will participate in reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT) instruction while utilizing the Bornstein Memorization Cards. Using the same reciprocal peer tutor training methods as Class B students, Class C participants will follow the six required tutoring techniques except each tutor will read the keyword association printed on the back of the Bornstein Memory Card. Instruction in holding the larger 8”x 11” cards correctly so the colorful visual image and the name of the state and capital in the bottom right corner are both visualized is demonstrated.

    Each tutor will present four Bornstein Memorization Cards in a two-minute session. The tutor reads the verbal word association on the back of the card while the tutee examines the visual image on the front. For example, the visual image for the state of Alaska is an Eskimo holding a calendar displaying the month of June. The tutor states the keyword phrase, “Do you know that it’s cold in ALASKA in JUNE? “ The tutor then verbally states, “The capital of Alaska is Juneau” as shown on the front of the card. The tutee is then asked, “What is the capital of Alaska? ” or “Juneau is the capital of what state? The Class C process of RPT with the Bornstein Memorization Cards continues with the same methodology as Class B; each pair of students switch roles as tutor and tutee; four cards are presented in two-minute sessions and points are awarded for correct answers. For the Bornstein Memory Card quiz, the tutor covers the name of the state and capital in the right hand corner with their hand and does not verbalize the keyword association. Rehearsal Procedure The same set of four state and capital cards – whether standard or Bornstein- is repeated for two consecutive days.

    On the third day, a new set of four state and capital cards is added to the previous set. After a review of the previous set of cards, the new cards are introduced in the same reciprocal peer-tutoring manner. Both students will participate in individual two-minute peer mediated instruction with the new set of cards, and each student will quiz the other student on ALL cards presented. Points are awarded and recorded for correct answers. This pattern repeats with each new set of four cards presented on the third day, thus ensuring rehearsal of prior facts for long term memory storage.

    Progress-Monitoring Procedure The daily quiz at the end of each RPT session is recorded in a journal so the student and teacher can monitor progress. Each team earns daily points for correct answers, which is displayed on a classroom chart. At the end of each week, the team with the highest points on the classroom chart earns a class privilege or reward. All students are encouraged to continually achieve more points by starting each week with zero points on the classroom chart. This will help RPT pairs to not become discouraged if they fall behind in cumulative points.

    At the conclusion of the research study, the same Pre-Quiz will be administered as a Post-Quiz to all students in Classrooms A, B, and C in the same manner as previously administered. Results It is expected that Class A will not show significant improvement between the Pre-Quiz and Post-Quiz scores as they did not receive any type of intervention. Class B should produce significant increases in immediate Post-Quiz Scores as they participated in RPT with standard index cards. The daily reinforcement and rehearsal of facts should reflect gains as attributed to practice effects (Britz et al. 1989). The implication for long-term memory storage in maintaining facts is not anticipated to be highly efficient if Class B students are retested at later dates. As Ormrod notes (2009), rehearsal not associated with meaningful learning maintains information in working memory only and is insufficient for moving the facts into long-term memory. The standard 3”x5” index cards do not include any type of meaningful learning associations. The findings for Class C should reflect an immediate increase in Post-Quiz Scores as these students participated in RPT with Bornstein Memory Cards.

    As Bornstein Memory cards implement visual images and keyword associations, it is expected that long-term memory storage for maintenance of facts will be the most efficient among these participants. The addition of associative cognitive aids such as elaborative rehearsal, visual imagery, and verbalization of keyword associations is expected to improve the effectiveness of long-term memory storage. . . Figure 1. Illustrated example of Bornstein Memory Card Figure 2. Illustrated example of keyword association on back of Bornstein Memory Card. Figure 3. Illustrated example of Bornstein Memory Card.

    Figure 4. Illustrated example of keyword association on back of Bornstein Memory Card. References Britz, M. W. , Dixon, J. , & McLaughlin, T. F. (1989). The effects of peer tutoring on mathematics performance: A recent review. British Columbia Journal of Special Education 13. 17-33. Bornstein, A. (1998). Bornstein state and capital memorizer [Flashcards]. Los Angeles, CA: Bornstein School of Memory Training. Bower, G. H. (1972). Mental imagery and associative learning. In L. W. Gregg (Ed. ), Cognition in learning and memory. New York: Oxford University Press. Butcher, K. R. (2006).

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