Reflections on the contribution of semi-formal peer learning methods


The covid pandemic brings many changes and concerns, while providing a source of practices rescued from previous contexts or practices with new potentials. Thus, from mutual schooling to peer scaffolding via tutoring, we find documented experiences to the effect that young people who share the same learning community at school (classroom or school) can help their classmates to get knowledge included in their curriculum. The development of situations could be considered as semi-formal as long as they are not entirely recommended by the institution, without however being completely non-formal in Schugurensky's opinion (2007) ("each organised school activity takes place outside the official school system").

In peer tutoring, there is an emerging partnership between the PERISCOPE network in Quebec (Plateforme Échange Recherche Intervention sur la SCOlarité: Persévérance et réussitE) and the GIS2if (Groupement d'Intérêt Scientifique Innovation, Interdisciplinarité, Formation1), is anchored in several traditions. In France, peer teaching dates back to the first half of the 19th century, as shown by Faillet's work (2018, 2020). He is a teacher and researcher within the GIS2if in France and is a co-author of the first part of this document (the mutual school or classroom). Anglo-Saxon work also provides essential information on the contribution of young people to the formal learning of their peers. The second part of this document reveals results obtained when 16-year-old teenagers and under this age are in a peer tutoring situation (Tutop).

This document provides a review on the issue that leads to the launch of intervention and (participative) research programmes on peer tutoring as a lead of action whereas formal learning often occurs in a school-home (or other) situation.

Mutual school or class ou la classe mutuelle

Nowadays, lecture education is dominant in the school system and has its origins in simultaneous teaching, theorised as early as 1680 by a French clergyman, Jean-Baptiste de La SalleHe created the Institute of the Christian Schools' Brothers in Reims, where a teacher taught a large number of pupils who are gathered by age. It was new at the time. This method made it possible to create better teaching conditions and to unify school equipment, but it required pupils to remain seated in a room focused on the teacher's pulpit. In France, it became the norm following the Guizot law on primary education on 28 June, 1833.

Yet, there was another way of teaching and learning in mutual schools. In classes combining ages and levels, the most advanced pupils in reading, writing or arithmetic were in charge of sharing their knowledge with others. In front of small wall charts that help the teacher, it was the mutual teaching method. It was quite successful in Europe and throughout the world. According to a studyof the Somme department, Bruno Poucet declares that with this method "learning how to read (but not to spell) was done in three years instead of six". However, considerations that were probably more political and religious than educational eventually curbed its spread until it disappeared.

Since 2015, the mutual teaching method has been studied again as part of an action-research project led by Lycée Dorian (Paris 11) and in other French schools through the "mutual class" experiment. In this one, the school form is questioned because the implementation of the mutual teaching method is accompanied by a reflection on the school organisation and on the rules prevailed in classrooms: various furniture, various types of seating, freedom of movement for pupils, numerous wall charts for them, and so on.

Peer tutoring (Tutop)

In class, peer tutoring (Tutop) is a formative connection between two or more pupils where one teaches the other (Topping, 2005, 2020). A tutor has sufficient expertise in a topic so that they help a pupil how to learn a skill or concept (Leung, 2015). Tutop is an effective educational method that is widely enriched by research and supported by meta-analyses (Alegre and al., 2018, 2019; Bowman-Perrott and al., 2016; Hott and al., 2014; Leung, 2015, 2018; Maroto & Lorenzo-Valentin, 2019; Moeyaert and al., 2019; Tenenbaum and al., 2020).

Tutop increases pupils' school activity and its programmes are cost-effective (Barrette and Lapostolle, 2007; Fisher & Frey, 2019). It intensifies the whole academic success (Moeyaert and al., 2019), academic performance of tutors (Alegre and al., 2019; Flores and al., 2018; Hwang and al., 2018; Leung, 2015, 2018; Marenco Dominiguez, 2018; Moeyaert and al., 2019). Tutop favours motivation (Désy, 2000; Evans and Moores, 2013; Kim and al., 2018), literacy (Bournot-Trites and al., 2003; Duran and al., 2020; Jones and al., 2016; Kirova and al., 2018; Potvin and al., 2012), numeracy (Alegre and al., 2019; Greene and al., 2018; Thurston and al., 2020) as well as the development of important skills such as metacognitive strategies (Duran and al., 2020; Flores and Duran, 2013), social skills (Alegre and al., 2017; Gottfried and al., 2018; Lee, 2014; Moeyaert and al., 2019; Xu, 2015) with an added socio-emotional input for tutors (Désy, 2000; Roseth and al., 2008).

Even if Tutop doesn't occur in class, pupils who have better understood the concepts can help their classmates for getting them, especially as tutors are in the same classroom, learning and assessment situation (LAS), so they have a common frame of reference. Therefore, Tutop reduces the risks of ruptures that would be experienced with an external tutor.

Even more so, Tutop is a "win-win" solution. Helpers help mentees and reinforce their learning by teaching them (Evans & Moores, 2013; Galbraith & Winterbottom, 2010; Ruegg and al., 2017), which increases their confidence through their abilities (Bournot-Trites and al., 2003; Désy, 2000).

It is also an idea which deals with various situations at different educational levels. It works, among others, with autistic people (Aldabas, 2019; Haas and al., 2020), with a language disorder (Grünke and al., 2016), a physical disability (Cervantes and al., 2013; Dugas, 2014; Klavina and al., 2013) or a non-visible disability (Morand and al., 2015).

Nevertheless, Tutop doesn't follow a single method. There are several effective alternatives such as cooperative learning (Abrami, 1995), collaborative learning, directive tutoring, facilitative tutoring (Berghmans and al., 2014), peer-to-peer and same-age tutoring, and cooperative, competitive, one-way and reciprocal tutoring (Bowman-Perrott and al., 2016). Other forms using social networks and forums on the Internet (Faillet, 2020) are likely to exist.

Furthermore, several elements play a role in its implementation: teachers' attitudes towards inclusive practices (Avramidis and al., 2019), tutors' epistemological posture (Back, 2016; Berzin, 2012), understanding of their role (Berzin, 2012), family support (Blanch and al., 2012), learning assessment (Davin & Donato, 2013), the type of construction used (De Backer and al., 2016), the difficulty of teaching task (Duran, 2016), peer intimidation and cheating (Borup, 2016), the use of technological resources (Evans & Moores, 2013 ; Keane & Loch, 2017 ; Liu & Lan, 2016 ; Mackiewicz and al., 2010) as well as other organisational aspects (Topping, 2014).

Interventionand research programmes to be launched

In Quebec, the PERISCOPE network has just left a thesis on action leads to the Cabinet of the Minister of Education and Higher Education (MÉES), leading to a Summit on academic success. The challenge is to deal with the current state of formal education for young people while the pandemic persists. Three action leads are prioritised, and peer tutoring (Tutop) is the first among these. Tutop implements tutoring carried out by contributors, especially retirees or people in training.

In Quebec, the Centre de services scolaires des Laurentides is the first to set up a peer tutoring programme.

In order to promote pupil tenacity and success, the PERISCOPE network focuses on intensifying players and pupils' participation. It wants to participate to such actions and is already collaborating with the Centre de services scolaires de la Rivière-du-Nord, which, with the help of the Centre de transfert pour la réussite éducative du Québec, is seeking to update the pupil exit profile implemented in its Commitment to Success Plan 2018-2022Community organisations Le Diplôme avant la Médaille and Maison Jeunes-Est de Sherbrooke are also planning or carrying out actions. So, peer tutoring is becoming an important action, a source of pupil contribution in their learning and a new research subject to be studied. Researchers from the PERISCOPE network will be interested in it if this action is led by the Quebec ministry of education and higher education (MÉES).

Several participative research leads have already been identified, especially related to the GIS2if in France They are about the practices of teachers, parents and learners, the possibilities and constraints of digital or physical environments and the organisational rules of institutions that offer, promote or accept this practice.

What is finally at stake is the evolution of "school shape", in particular to some of its essential elements like the gathering of pupils in classes in a given place and time, the structure of the school space and classroom, the posture of teachers and openness to the environment. As a result, it is important to pay attention to learning because what young people are able to learn or cope is the composite product of school contributions, conditions, dispositions and opportunities that we should try to take them into consideration.

For example, one of the most attractive questions in 2021 is how pupils progress in this world between the various resources proposed, which they can access, under peers' influence or thanks to schools' request, which can give instrumented tasks. The cognitive integration of the various information controversed and collected, often occurs through trusted players, including parents, teachers and different peer networks.

The challenge is to understand how peer mediation works for accessing to a logical culture at home and in class, especially during the transition from primary to secondary school. It also focuses on using which platforms and content validation methods.

These questions can also be easily adapted to common education situations.

For now, it is necessary to create and maintain attention towards controlled learning and assessment situations for a certain period of time because it is also necessary to understand what is at stake rather than to confirm a result predicted by a theory (since there is no consensual one). So, it is a question of setting up cooperative or collaborative research linked to practitioners who are in charge of transmitting values and knowledge. It will be possible to work in a field that contrasts in terms of public and modes using to resources during prescribed notion appropriation tasks that are partially or totally at distance.


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