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The Effect of Peer Support on University Level Students' English Language Achievements

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  • Milli Savunma Üniversitesi

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The purpose of the study is to investigate the effect of peer support on university level students' English language achievements. An experimental model with pretest-posttest experimental and control group was used with 800 students who were studying at a university in Istanbul vicinity. As experiment group, 400 students (200 of whom " Assistants " and 200 of whom " Supported Students ") were included in the Language Teacher Assistant (hereafter LTA) program and monitored through LTA booklet in a weekly period by their teacher. The students in the control group (200 of whom " Not Assistants " and 200 of whom " Not Supported ") followed their traditional English lessons and stated that they did not want to be involved in such a program. The data was collected by means of an achievement test named American Language Course Placement Test (ALCPT), evaluated statistically with independent and paired T-test. The findings of four-month-study coincide with the literature and it showed meaningful difference on the achievement scores of the " peer-supported " students. On the other hand it was inferred from the study that the students who assisted lower-level peers were not affected in either side positive or negative.
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Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org
ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online)
Vol.8, No.1, 2017
76
The Effect of Peer Support on University Level Students’ English
Language Achievements
İrfan Sarı
*
,
Nadir Çeliköz,
Süleyman Ünal
Faculty of Education, Yıldız Technical University, PO box 34220, Davutpaşa, İstanbul, Turkey
Abstract
The purpose of the study is to investigate the effect of peer support on university level students’ English
language achievements. An experimental model with pretest-posttest experimental and control group was used
with 800 students who were studying at a university in Istanbul vicinity. As experiment group, 400 students (200
of whom “Assistants” and 200 of whom “Supported Students”) were included in the Language Teacher Assistant
(hereafter LTA) program and monitored through LTA booklet in a weekly period by their teacher. The students in
the control group (200 of whom “Not Assistants” and 200 of whom “Not Supported”) followed their traditional
English lessons and stated that they did not want to be involved in such a program. The data was collected by
means of an achievement test named American Language Course Placement Test (ALCPT), evaluated
statistically with independent and paired T-test. The findings of four-month-study coincide with the literature and
it showed meaningful difference on the achievement scores of the “peer-supported” students. On the other hand
it was inferred from the study that the students who assisted lower-level peers were not affected in either side
positive or negative.
Keywords: Peer Support, Language Teacher Assistant, Student Achievement, English Language Teaching
1. Introduction
Achievement is defined as “something that has been done or achieved through effort” in Merriam-Webster
dictionary. While ones effort determines the results, any kind of support such as formal, informal, social or
emotional has also great influence on academic achievement of the students positively. The literature shows
consensus on the positive effect of support however support types varies from parental to peer, from teacher to
manager, from consultant to social.
From those, “peer support” is a kind of collaborative teaching-learning process which can be defined as student
helping another student learn any subject (Newton & Ender, 2010) or active support of students among
themselves who have equal status and social grouping (Topping, 2005). It can also be defined as the transference
of experience and knowledge from one to another. Although all the researchers have been agreeing on the
function of the peer cooperation, this process of student-student teaching has been defined under many different
terms by different researchers; Whitman (1988) coined the term “near-peer teaching” and Evans & Cuffe (2009),
Ten Cate & Durning (2007a), McKenna & French, (2011) followed him; while Falchikov (2001), Manning
(2003), Mynard & Almarzouqi (2006), Iwata, Furmedge, Sturrock, & Gill, (2014), and Alrajhi & Said (2015)
defined this process as “peer tutoring”. McKenna & French (2011) used the term “peer assisted learning” but
Manning (2014) preferred “peer support”.
No matter how different this method is defined by researchers, the basic structure of the peer support is to match
a lower level student with a successful student so that lower level student may increase his academic
performance without any stress driven by an authority, in this context “teacher”. However, as Tella (2013)
stressed, peer support should not be considered as the replacement of the teacher but additional support to
ongoing teaching process.
Instead of such replacement, we should make use of peer support in different aspects such as to raise students
self-confidence and communication skills (Schleyer et al., 2005); to raise students reading performances (Saenz,
Fuchs & Fuchs, 2005); to create positive social behavior among students (Plumer & Stoner, 2005); and to have
students with more learning responsibility and to provide positive learning environment (Baillie & Grimes,
1999). Learners also reported that peer supporters can better understand the needs of their friends (Ten Cate et al.,
2012).
Although these studies were undermined the effects of organized peer support, Falchikov (2001) argued that all
Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org
ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online)
Vol.8, No.1, 2017
77
schools already have an informal peer support system but what makes difference is whether the supporters are
trained or not. And, nonetheless, aforementioned benefits of peer support some researchers pointed out some
challenges on this process. For instance, Beasley (1997) mentioned that personal clashes that can take place
during peer support process and also attendance problems may occur. He argued that such programs should be
designed to prevent any problems.
Reviewing the literature it can be concluded that vast amount of research has been done on the effectiveness of
peer support however almost none research has been conducted on the effect of peer support on supporters’
English language achievement. Therefore, this study is aimed to fill this gap by conducting an experimental
research design (Creswell, 2012).
2. Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to reveal the effect of peer support on university level students’ (both assistant and
supported students) English language achievements. The present study aims to prove following hypothesis;
1- There is an increase on the achievements of (pretest-posttest) “assistant and not assistant students”.
2- There is an increase on the achievements of (pretest-posttest) “supported and not supported students”.
3- There is a meaningful difference in the posttest results of experimental and control groups who are
considered to be successful students.
4- There is a meaningful difference in the posttest results of experimental and control groups who are
considered to be unsuccessful students.
3. Methodology
This part of the research includes the research model, participants, development of data collection tools, how the
data is collected and analyzed.
3.1 Research Model
An experimental research design was used to compare the achievement scores of “assistant and not assistant
students” and “supported and not supported students” over a semester in 2015-2016 academic years. Due to the
nature of the experimental research design and to be the real test models participants were assigned randomly.
3.2 Study Group
A total of 800 university level students participated in the study. Students of a boarding university in Istanbul
were given a chance to volunteer as “Language Teacher Assistant” and the only criterion was to be follow
advanced level English language classes. The number of assistants which constituted our first experimental
group was limited to 200 and another 200 advanced level English learners were randomly assigned for our first
control group. These 400 students were identified as successful students. For each assistant one unsuccessful
student paired and this formed our second experimental group under the unsuccessful category. 200 unpaired
unsuccessful students were named as second control group of the study. The design of the study group can be
seen clearly in Table 1.
Table 1. Design of the Study Group
Experimental Control
Successful Assistant (200) Not Assistant (200)
Unsuccessful Supported (200) Not Supported (200)
As it is required to have similar achievement results before the experimental process, students’ pretest scores
have been analyzed by independent T-test and there is not significant (meaningful) difference,“α=0.05 level”,
between both pairs in terms of both achievement levels. It can be concluded that both the experimental and
control groups were equivalent in terms of achievement levels before the experimental process.
3.3 Data Collection Tool and Its Development
A standardized test named “American Language Course Placement Test”, for which 54 minutes was allocated,
Journal of Education and Practice www.iiste.org
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has been used for the data collection. Expert views were gotten for the content validity of the test and to ensure
the reliability of the test, it was tried on 200 students by internal consistency coefficient. The reliability
coefficient of the data collection tool used in this study was found to be 0.98 by Split- half method and 0.96
according to KR-20 Coefficient of Reliability. It can be concluded that the reliability of the data collection tool is
very high. The high reliability value ensures high face and content Validity.
3.4 Data Collection
Form the very beginning of the 2015-2016 academic years both groups (2 experimental and 2 control groups)
were administered ALCPT for the pretest. Throughout the semester (15 weeks), experimental groups keep their
logs in LTA booklets in accordance with the supervision of the academic staff and those logs were checked in a
weekly period by the class-teachers. In the meantime, control group followed their lessons as is scheduled in
their curriculum. At the end of the semester, all students were again administered an ALCPT as a posttest to see
whether the treatment worked or not.
3.5 Data Analysis and Interpretation
The data was analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 22 (SPSS, SPSS Inc., Chicago), and the
differences between groups and pretest-posttest results have been tested at the level of α=0.05. Firstly, paired T-
test has been used to determine whether there is a significant difference in pretest-posttest scores of each group.
Then, independent T-test has been used to find out whether there is difference in posttest results of experimental
groups and control groups in terms of achievement scores. Results were considered statistically significant for
the “unsuccessful experimental group” if the p value was <0.05. The result of the research is given in the
following part in detail.
4. Findings
A total number of 800 university level students participated in this study in the fall semester of 2015-2016
academic years. For the reason of being a military academy there were no female participants in the study.
Furthermore, although students were educated in five different majors they had similar backgrounds therefore;
the researcher did not investigated whether there was a correlation between their majors and their performances.
The results of the analysis in accordance with the hypotheses of this study are given below and to falsify our
Null Hypothesis each group’s pretest and posttest scores were analyzed by Paired T-test.
1- There is an increase on the achievements of (pretest-posttest) “assistant and not assistant students”.
It can be clearly observed from Table 2 that, both groups increased their achievement scores. While “assistants’”
pretest scores were 86,75 they increased it to 87,78 after 15 weeks of teaching their peers, “not assistants”
increased their scores from 86,12 to 87,61. Besides both groups increased their scores at the end of the semester,
the difference between each groups’ means is realized as 0,46. There is a statistically significant difference
(p<0.05) between groups’ pretest and posttest scores however effect size (d) for assistants was found to be 0,19
and 0,25 for not assistants shows slight increase at the level (Green and Salkind, 2005).
Table 2. Results of Paired T-test (Pretest &Posttest) of the Students on Achievement Levels in Experimental and
Control Groups
Group Subgroups Test
Χ
N SD
Χ
1-
Χ
2 T df p
Successful
Assistant
(Experimental-1)
Pre 86,75 200 3,85 -1,03 -2,68 199 .008
Post 87,78 200 5,07
Not Assistant
(Control-1)
Pre 86,12 200 5,30 -1,49 -3,64 199 .000
Post 87,61 200 4,14
Unsuccessful
Supported
(Experimental-2)
Pre 42,00 200 18,47 -6,38 -8,40 199 .000
Post 48,38 200 16,69
Not Supported
(Control-2)
Pre 41,41 200 15,73 -1,61 -2,76 199 .006
Post 43,02 200 16,79
P< 0.05
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2- There is an increase on the achievements of (pretest-posttest) “supported and not supported
students”.
According to the results of paired T-test, it can be inferred from Table 2 that supported and not supported groups
increased their achievement scores as well. Peer supported group’s pretest scores were 42,00 at the beginning of
the treatment and they increased it to 48,38 after the experiment, “not supported” group increased their scores
from 41,42 to 43,02.
The Null Hypothesis can be falsified that each group increased their scores at the end of the semester and there is
a statistically significant difference (p<0.05) between groups’ pretest and posttest scores. Looking at the effect
size (d) to clearly identify the effect of the treatment, the d of the supported group is 0,59 which is at the
acceptable level but 0,19 (slight increase) for the not supported group (Green and Salkind, 2005).
The results gathered in this study showed that no matter how different technics facilitated during English
language teaching, learning was occurred but in different levels.
3- There is a meaningful difference in the posttest results of experimental and control groups who are
considered to be successful students.
The study constructed on two experiment groups and two control groups. The first experiment and control group
is composed of “successful” students according to their ALCPT scores. From Table 3 it is apparent that both
groups’ posttest scores are very close which cannot falsify our hypothesis.
The actual p was realized as 0.71 at the p<0.05, it shows there is not statistically significant difference between
the scores of assistants and those who are not assistants. Being in the role of teaching did not affect the ultimate
test scores of the assistants.
Table 3. Results of Independent T-test on Posttest Scores of both Experimental and Control Groups
Group Subgroups
Χ
N SD
Χ
1-
Χ
2 T df p
Successful
Assistant
(Experimental-1) 87,78 200 5,07 .170 .367 398 .714
Not Assistant
(Control-1) 87,61 200 4,14 .170
Unsuccessful
Supported
(Experimental-2) 48,38 200 16,69 5,35 3,198 398 .001
Not Supported
(Control-2) 43,02 200 16,79 5,35
P< 0.05
4- There is a meaningful difference in the posttest results of experimental and control groups who are
considered to be unsuccessful students.
The second experiment and control group is composed of “unsuccessful” students according to their ALCPT
scores. In Table 3 it can be clearly seen that experiment group’s posttest score is much higher than controls
groups’.
The p was realized as 0.001 at the p<0.05 which means there is meaningful difference between the posttest
scores of supported and those who are not supported.
The results of the present study demonstrate that the paired and independent T-test, which is applied to identify
the effect of peer support on university level students’ (assistants, not assistants, supported and not supported
students) English language achievements, showed that all groups’ achievement scores are increased however the
only meaningful difference is observed in “supported” students’ scores. Successful students who were involved
in the experiment were not affected in either way positive or negative.
5. Discussion, Result and Suggestions
The achievement of the learners has always been on the spot that many precautions and additional programs
have being implemented by the institutions. However, the fundamental step to learn better is the involvement and
contribution of the learner in the learning process (Bonner, 2002). To make this fundamental purpose real, best
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method seems to assign them teaching roles under different names such as peer-teacher, peer-tutors, teacher
assistants, peer-supporters.
This paper examined the effects of peer support on both successful and unsuccessful students’ achievements.
While the finding of unsuccessful students’ findings supports the previous literature, the findings of the
successful students’ data do not overlap with the previous literature.
First of all, Williams & Fowler (2014) made a contribution to the literature and they implied that final year
clinical unit scores of near-peer teachers show meaningful difference compared the students who did not involve
in such programs. However, in this study, there is not a statistically significant difference between assistants and
not assistants. Williams & Fowler (2014) did their study in the field of Emergency Health which is based more
on praxis though English is more on theory. Moreover, the assistants in this study had higher level of English and
they taught and helped their peers about lower level subject which explains why they did not increase their
scores as expected.
Furthermore, Mynard & Almarzouqi (2006) investigated a qualitative research and they also mentioned about
how peer-teachers feel about their learning experiences. They also looked at the peer teaching programs from a
different aspect and the found out that self-satisfaction of the students were increased and felt themselves useful
for the community which is a kind of sociocultural dimension of helping others and. They listed some more
benefits of such programs i.e. responsibility, developing friendship. As the current study built on quantitative
data the researcher was not able to gather such valuable info.
Additionally, In peer-teaching process, supported students find supportive environments for the difficult concepts
covered in class and they improve their learning (Baillie & Grimes,1999). Saenz, Fuchs & Fuchs (2005) worked
with the students who had difficulty in learning found that they did meaningful difference on their scores
compared to control group. In the light of both study, the current study go along with the previous studies as
supported students posttest result shows statistically significant difference.
Finally, it is clear that student with low English level get benefitted from this program and many researches
proven this. In our case, successful students did not increased their results as expected due to low level topics of
their friends lessons however their attitudes have changed positively. Therefore, to identify affective impact of
peer-support should be investigated through qualitative research. Moreover, to increase the effect size of the
supported group, assistant should be guided and tracked by their instructors in more organized manner.
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Near peer teaching is becoming increasingly popular within healthcare education. The experiences and effects of near-peer teaching upon the near-peer teachers' academic performance are poorly understood. In order to address this, the objective of this study was to examine whether a near-peer teaching program improved the overall clinical unit scores of undergraduate paramedic near-peer teachers. Students in their final year of an undergraduate paramedic, or nursing/paramedic degree were given the opportunity to volunteer as near-peer teachers for a first year clinical skills unit. The overall unit scores in a final year clinical unit of 74 students involved in the near-peer teaching program were compared with a randomly selected sample not involved. 74 students participated in this study as near-peer teachers between 2011-2013 (n=23 in 2011, n=18 in 2012, n=33 in 2013). In each year, the median clinical unit grade of participating near-peer teachers was significantly higher than that of the students not involved in the near-peer teaching program when examined using a Mann-Whitney U Test (71 vs 67, p=0.006 in 2011; 76 vs 72, p=0.007 in 2012; 75 vs 71, p=0.004 in 2013). This study has demonstrated that participation in a near-peer teaching program can result in improved overall clinical unit grades for undergraduate paramedic near-peer teachers. This study has added objective data to the variety of subjective information evaluating the effects of near-peer teaching upon the teachers themselves.
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Context: Peer-assisted learning (PAL) is recognised as an effective learning tool and its benefits are well documented in a range of educational settings. Learners find it enjoyable and their performances in assessments are comparable with those of students taught by faculty tutors. In addition, PAL tutors themselves report the development of improved clinical skills and confidence through tutoring. However, whether tutoring leads to actual improvement in performance has not been fully investigated. Objectives: As high-achieving students are already en route to succeeding in final examinations, we wanted to examine whether participation in a peer-tutoring programme in itself leads to better final-year examination performance. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of results on final-year written and clinical examinations at University College London Medical School during 2010-2012. Z-scores were calculated and the performances of PAL tutors and students who were not PAL tutors were compared using analysis of covariance (ancova). Year 4 examination results were used as indicators of previous academic attainment. Results: Of the 1050 students who attempted the final examination, 172 were PAL tutors in the final year. Students who acted as PAL tutors outperformed students who did not in all examination components by 1-3%. Z-scores differed by approximately 0.2 and this was statistically significant, although the significance of this difference diminished when controlling for Year 4 results. Students who acted as PAL tutors who had scored in the top quartile in Year 4 examinations scored significantly better in a long-station objective structured clinical examination (LSO). Conclusions: Although students who acted as PAL tutors performed better than students who did not in final-year examinations, this difference was small and attributable to the students' background academic abilities. High-achieving students appear to be self-selecting as peer-tutors and their enhanced performance in LSOs may reflect their inherent academic abilities. Although peer-tutoring in itself did not lead to enhanced examination performance, further studies are required as many factors, such as the proximity of examinations and previous tutoring, can potentially affect the relationship between peer-tutoring experience and examination performance.
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Developments in forms of peer learning 1981–2006 are reviewed, focusing mainly on peer tutoring, cooperative learning, and peer assessment. Types and definitions of peer learning are explored, together with questions of implementation integrity and consequent effectiveness and cost‐effectiveness. Benefits to helpers are now emphasised at least as much as benefits to those helped. In this previously under‐theorised area, an integrated theoretical model of peer learning is now available. Peer learning has been extended in types and forms, in curriculum areas and in contexts of application beyond school. Engagement in helping now often encompasses all community members, including those with special needs. Social and emotional gains now attract as much interest as cognitive gains. Information technology is now often a major component in peer learning, operating in a variety of ways. Embedding and sustainability has improved, but further improvement is needed.
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Introduction 1. What is peer tutoring? 2. Beneficial effects: why teachers use peer tutoring 3. Theoretical frameworks for peer tutoring 4. How theory can inform practice 5. Planning and promoting peer tutoring 6. Helping students become peer tutors 7. Evaluation of peer tutoring schemes 8. Problems associated with peer tutoring 9. Technology-supported collaborative learning 10. Benefiting from hindsight: practitioners reflect on peer tutoring 11. Reflections and prospects