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Peer Tutoring

iStudy would like to acknowledge Paula Ford for revising the content of this tutorial.



There are several reasons to become active in peer tutoring - reasons for both the tutor and the student. Here are a few of the most helpful aspects peer tutoring can offer:A woman tutoring another woman.


Goals and Objectives

The main goal of this tutorial is to introduce learners to essential peer tutoring techniques. Upon completion of this tutorial, you will be able to:


Information about peer tutoring in this tutorial is divided into several sections. The recommended sequence is as follows:

  1. Establishing the environment
  2. Building rapport
  3. Activity 1: What would you do to help a student in a tutoring session?
  4. Activity 2: Building Rapport with a Student
  5. Establishing proper body language
  6. Approaching the work
  7. Listening, questioning, and responding
  8. Activity 3: Effective Strategies for Listening, Questioning, and Responding
  9. Feedback

After you read through the information and tips about peer tutoring and completed the activities, you should be ready to try this short role playing game (Note: Opens in a new window or tab). 

Note: All external links in this tutorial will open in a new window or tab. 




Instructor's Guide


Information about Peer Tutoring - Establishing the Environment

Before peer tutoring starts, it is important to establish a neutral and casual environment for the tutoring session. This should be a space where both the tutor and student feel comfortable to ask questions and explore ideas. Also, make sure the location is quiet and free from distractions. Finally, make sure to have the assignment sheets available for reference and extra paper for scratch work.  

A woman tutoring another woman.


Information about Peer Tutoring - Building Rapport

When you have a good rapport with someone, you look forward to meeting with them. You feel free to talk openly with them about a variety of subjects and you appreciate their thoughts and ideas, as well. Establishing a good rapport between the student and the tutor is essential in peer tutoring. Because the peer tutoring session is not intended as a traditional teacher-student relationship, but rather as a conversational dialogue, it is important that both parties are engaged in the process. Always keep in mind that a conversation needs two speakers. Both the tutor and the student need to feel free to ask questions and reflect on ideas.  

Rapport is the "glue" that makes the tutor/student relationship productive. Therefore, an important aspect of the tutorial experience is that you, as a tutor, are able to 'read' your student and make him or her feel at ease in the situation. Being aware of body language - both your own and your student's - and understanding the subtext of your student's verbal responses will help make sure that both you and your student are engaged.

Begin by introducing yourself. The initial greeting and chit-chat is when you can connect with your fellow student and begin to establish a rapport which will determine the direction the session will take. This is where you begin to get acquainted with the student. Find out if this is her or his first visit. If it is, describe what to expect. If students are uncomfortable or apprehensive, try to put them at ease through conversation, but also through body language. A good acronym to remember about body language when beginning to build a rapport is LOOSER. Each letter of the word will help you remember the six points listed below.

If your student continues to be tense in spite of your efforts to help her or him feel more comfortable and establish a rapport, you might try getting her or him to relax by modeling a relaxed but attentive posture. Try mirroring the student's stance, then gradually uncross your arms and legs. It's human nature for the student to mirror you. At the same time, you need to be aware of your own body language - just as it's natural for the student to mirror you, it's also natural for you to mirror the student!

Activity 1: What would you do to help a student in a tutoring session?


Think about this situation and answer the question below.

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When starting a tutoring session, it is important to help the student feel comfortable. Some of the things you might have suggested doing in your answer would be to:

Activity 2: Building Rapport with a Student

Take the quiz below to check what you have learned so far.

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Information about Peer Tutoring - Establishing Proper Body Language

When establishing a rapport and working with a student, your body language is just as important as your verbal language. Check the list below for some tips on body language. These tips will help you be aware of the messages you are sending, as well as the messages the students are sending. Remember to consciously "read" the students, so you can help them feel more comfortable without forgetting to pay attention to the messages you are sending with your own body language.

Tips for Establishing Proper Body Language:

Two people looking at each other.


Information about Peer Tutoring - Approaching the Work

As you "read" your student and begin to establish a genuine rapport, you also need to begin to approach the material in question. However, it is important to keep a few ideas in mind as you start.

So, as a tutor, the two roles you want to avoid are: (see reference 5)


Information about Peer Tutoring - Listening, Questioning, and Responding

Listen Carefully

As a tutor, one of your more important roles is to be an effective listener. A good tutor is able to listen to the concerns of the student and reflect those back. If the tutor cannot listen to the needs and questions of the student, then the conversational aspect of the session degrades into an instructional teacher-student relationship.Man with hand to ear.

Tips for Effective Listening:

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Ask Effective Questions

Another key role that a tutor performs is to ask effective and stimulating discussion questions. By asking the right questions, a tutor can help create a dialogue for the student that the student can replay later by him/herself.

As you listen, you will naturally find yourself asking questions. Ask questions to engage the student, to clarify what has been said, and to show that you've been listening (see reference 8). Effective questioning helps to continue to build rapport as well as provide information about the work at hand.

Tips for Asking Effective Questions:

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Make Effective Verbal Responses

As you are working with and listening to your student, you will want to continue to progress through the task at hand by building the dialogue and showing that you are interested and involved. Making effective verbal responses will also help to clarify the materials being discussed as well as reinforce the rapport you are building.


Tips about Making Effective Verbal Responses:


Activity 3: Effective Strategies for Listening, Questioning, and Responding

Now that you have read through all of the information and tips, take the quiz below to see what you learned.

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Information about Peer Tutoring - Feedback

Finally, as you are addressing the work with your student, it is your job to offer useful feedback. Remember that it is not the tutor's responsibility to make sure the paper or assignment is perfect. Your job is to help the student further understand key concepts. Therefore, when offering feedback keep these ideas in mind:

Tips for offering Constructive Feedback:


Peer Tutoring Role Play

During this activity, you will view short video clips of a student who has dropped by the Writing Center for help with writing a paper for his English class. After viewing the video clip, read each of the three possible actions you could take and choose the one that will best help to build rapport, show that you are actively listening to the student, help you to gather information about the student and his assignment, and will provide the most useful feedback to the student. You will know if you have been successful if your choices result in the student being able to complete his writing assignment.

Begin role play activity. (Note: This will open a new window or tab)




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Peer tutoring is helping other students or peers move themselves forward academically. In a peer tutoring session, it is important for a tutor to take time to build a rapport with the student by asking probing questions, which require more than a yes or no answer. A tutor should remember not to do the work for the student if even the student doesn't seem to get the answers as quickly as they should. A tutor should not forget how important body language and good listening skills are. Without them, a tutoring session will not go very well. In addition to asking effective questions and making verbal responses to your students, giving proper and constructive feedback is always a good way to help your students learn.

Instructor's Guide

Quizzes, Reflective Questions, and Activities

The following assignments are embedded in the Peer Tutoring tutorial:


Relationship to Other iStudy Tutorials

This tutorial is related to other tutorials on personal effectiveness, including note-taking, active reading, active listening, interview skills, stress management, conflict management, and brainstorming. Therefore, it is recommended that instructors introduce this tutorial to students in conjunction with other personal effectiveness tutorials.


Suggested In-Class Methods of Presentation

Peer tutoring is not the same as instruction. It is, instead, students helping other students to help themselves with tasks such as writing or math assignments. It is a hard job because the tutor's role is not to correct errors or write papers for students, but to provide assistance for the students to move forward academically. Depending on the dialogue (the questions and answers, the listening, and the feedback), the relationship between a peer tutor and his or her students can be mutually enriching. The purpose of being introduced to peer tutoring is first and foremost to learn how to be a tutor. In addition, students are helping their fellow students achieve more in college and learning about how to be a better student.

In-Class Activity:

Break the learners up into small (three people) groups. Provide each individual in the group with a simple subject s/he is familiar with; perhaps a current social issue. In turn, each person should serve as a tutor, a student, and an observer. The tutor should strive to be an expert tutor by using the tips provided in the student manual. The student should make sure s/he understands what is being taught. The observer can use the tips provided in the tutorial information as checklists, showing the tutor and student what s/he did correctly and/or incorrectly. Then the people in the group can switch roles and repeat the above process, doing this until each person in the group has had the role of tutor, student, and observer at least once.

Each group could present its findings to the class and be prepared to discuss them. Instructors can assess learners' understanding of peer tutoring principles at this point by observing how each group presents its findings and responds to questioning.

Note: This is an excellent opportunity to utilize and reinforce the cooperative learning techniques from the iStudy Cooperative Learning tutorial.

In Class Discussions:


Assessment Criteria

Through observing both the group's and the individual's activity, the instructor may assess student performance. Assessment criteria are as follows (Instructors supply the percentage weights):


Assessment Criteria





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The student can describe:

  1. basic listening skills
  2. basic questioning skills, and
  3. basic feedback techniques

that a tutor should use in any peer tutoring situation. 


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The student can identify the skills being used when observing a tutoring session.




The student can actively participate in the in-class activities by using basic listening skills, questioning skills, feedback techniques, and communication principles.