Making Retention Count: The Power of Becoming a Peer Tutor

Aug. 22, 2009

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 111 Number 8, 2009, p. 4-5.


A review of the literature demonstrates that grade retention often fails to improve the academic and socio-emotional outcomes of retained students. Although little empirical work on peer tutoring has focused specifically on retained students, the literature suggests that those students who act as peer tutors often experience improved school performance and self-concepts.

Purpose of Study

This study developed out of a concern that elementary school students being held back to repeat a grade, or retained, were not benefiting academically from non-promotion. This action research study aimed to identify and implement an intervention that would improve the academic and socio-emotional outcomes of a twice-retained third-grade student.

Setting: The study took place in a New York City public elementary school.

Intervention: The intervention involved implementing a 12-week peer tutoring program in which a retained third-grade student tutored a struggling classmate in mathematics.

Research Design: This is an action research study in which the author conducted research and implemented an intervention in her own classroom.


After serving as a peer tutor, this student experienced increased math achievement, an improved self-concept, and better classroom behavior. The results suggest that having struggling students serve as peer tutors may be effective in improving both their academic achievement and socio-emotional outcomes.

Updated: Mar. 17, 2009