Institute of Education Sciences (IES): Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, Report Summary

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Institute of Education Sciences (IES): Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies, Report Summary


PALS was found to have potentially positive effects on alphabetics, no discernible effects on fluency, and mixed effects on comprehension for beginning readers.

Program Description

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies and a similar program known as Peer-Assisted Literacy Strategies are peer-tutoring programs that supplement the primary reading curriculum (Fuchs, Fuchs, Kazdan, & Allen, 1999; Mathes & Babyak, 2001). This review uses the acronym PALS to encompass both programs and their respective full names when referring to a specific program. Students in PALS classrooms work in pairs on reading activities intended to improve reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Students in the pairs—who alternately take on the role of tutor and tutee—read aloud, listen to their partner read, and provide feedback during various structured activities. Teachers train students to use the following learning strategies: passage reading with partners, paragraph “shrinking” (or describing the main idea), and prediction relay (predicting what is likely to happen next in the passage). PALS includes separate versions for kindergarten and grade. Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies also includes versions for grades 2–3 (which are part of a larger set produced for grades 2–6).


Two studies of PALS that fall within the scope of the Beginning Reading review protocol meet What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards, and one study meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. These three studies included 3,130 beginning readers in kindergarten and grade 1 in four states. Based on these studies, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for PALS on beginning readers to be medium to large for the alphabetics domain and small for the fluency and comprehension domains.
This intervention report was prepared for the WWC by Mathematica Policy Research under contract ED-07-CO-0062.
Access the full report.

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