Use Of Peer-Mediation To Develop Instructional Behavior In Pre-Service Teachers

Use Of Peer-Mediation To Develop Instructional Behavior In Pre-Service Teachers

Robert L. Morgan

The investigators evaluated the effect of peer-mediated instruction on the development of specific teaching strategies (i.e., error correction, antecedent prompt and test, antecedent prompt and fade, most-to-least prompting, least-to-most prompting, constant time delay, progressive time delay, stimulus manipulations) by eight undergraduate pre-service teachers. Results indicated the procedure produced substantial and immediate effect. Comparable results occurred across students, demonstrating replication of the effects of peer-mediation.

With added emphasis on improving outcomes in higher education, college instructors continually search for instructional procedures to improve student performance. Peer-mediated instruction has received considerable attention as a method for ameliorating skill deficits or developing new behaviors. In fact, some skills may be taught more effectively in group settings and may afford more learning opportunities (Morgan, Whorton, & Ficek, 1988).

The most familiar and traditional peer-mediated paradigm involves an expert tutor instructing a tutee (Maxwell, 1990). Peer tutoring benefits both the tutee and tutor’s academic and social skills (Kohler, & Greenwood, 1990). Peer tutoring provides practice of newly taught skills as well as opportunities for interaction and socialization with other learners (Greenwood, Carta, & Hall, 1988). For example, Parker and Sharpe (1995) noted the use of a peer-tutoring paradigm increased the frequency of instructional and social support of college athletes. Extensive evidence demonstrates that peer tutoring is effective in accomplishing a variety of goals, in a breadth of subjects and with a wide range of students (McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, & Smith, 1986; Moust, & Schmidt, 1992).

Another familiar form of peer-mediation is cooperative learning. Typically, cooperative learning involves arranging opportunities for small groups of students to work together to master material. (Moorman, 1994). Nattiv, Winitzky, and Drickey (1991) identify a number of successful cooperative learning strategies used in pre-service teacher education characterizing them as incorporating: individual accountability; group goals; support of task effort; and social skill development characterize cooperative learning lessons. Reported benefits of cooperative learning include: increased retention, use of higher level reasoning, better view and acceptance of others, positive attitude, higher self-esteem, greater social support, positive psychological adjustment, greater collaborative skills, and better behavior (Johnson, & Johnson, 1980; Slavin, 1991).

A further example of peer-mediation is reciprocal peer tutoring. Reciprocal peer tutoring benefits from the strengths of both peer tutoring and cooperative learning (Beachler, & Glyer-Culver, 1998). For example, students in a college-level psychology course were paired with a partner. Prior to an examination, each partner created a test that measured competence on assigned material, administered it to the other partner, and provided explanations for questions answered incorrectly (Fantuzzo, Dimeff, & Fox, 1986). In this type of peer-mediated instruction, students assume both a tutor and tutee role.

Peer-mediation has proven benefits. Yet, do these benefits extend to the development of teaching behavior? This study determined the effectiveness of peer-mediation in developing specific instructional behaviors in pre-service teachers.


Participants and Settings

During the 1997 fall semester, the researchers evaluated traditional college student (aged 18 to 24 years) performance in an introductory course in applied behavior analysis. At the beginning of the semester, the eight members of the class were given the opportunity to participate in the study. The students had not received prior instruction in the content of the study. During the course of the study, the students did not take parallel courses.

Experimental Procedures

In order to assess the effectiveness of peer-mediation to develop specific instructional behavior, the investigators used the following guidelines:

1. Prior to initiating instruction, the investigators administered a 50 item multiple choice assessment to measure student familiarity with various instructional procedures.

2. Students were randomly paired with another student. These students remained partnered for the duration of the study.

3. Using written guidelines for the eight targeted instructional behaviors (i.e., error correction, antecedent prompt and test, antecedent prompt and fade, most-to-least prompting, least-to-most prompting, constant time delay, progressive time delay, stimulus manipulations), pairs of students instructed each other in the specifics of each procedure (Wolery, Ault, Doyle, & Gast, 1986).

4. Students were assigned one instructional method per week. As a result peer-mediated instruction took place over the course of an eight week period.

5. Based on their study of the instructional method, each student developed lessons that illustrated the steps involved in each instructional procedure.

6. At the end of each week, the investigators evaluated student performance of the prepared lessons. The performance of the instructional method was evaluated on each student’s successful completion and inclusion of each step in the instructional sequence as they role-played teaching the lesson.

7. At the end of the semester, each student developed and role-played teaching a new lesson using one of the eight instructional procedures mentioned above. As the students taught their lessons, the investigators evaluated the student’s performance of each step in the instructional sequence.

Experimental Design

Using a simple ABA design (Tawney, & Gast, 1984), the investigators measured the effectiveness of peer-mediated instruction to develop instructional behavior. Initially, the investigators administered a baseline assessment (i.e., 50 item multiple choice test) to determine the students’ familiarity with each behavioral procedure. The individual student’s percentage of correct responses was recorded and graphed as initial baseline data. During the intervention phase, the investigators weekly presented a new instructional method and had pairs of students instruct each other in a specific instructional procedure. As the students role-played their prepared lessons, the percentage of correct steps completed in each of the instructional procedures was recorded and graphed as intervention data. As a final baseline measure of Student performance, individual students selected an instructional procedure, prepared a new lesson, and role-played its instruction. The investigators monitored their performance and the percentage of correct steps completed in each student’s presentation was recorded and graphed as baseline data.


As illustrated in Figure 1, the initial baseline shows limited student skill in various methods of behavioral instruction. The investigators noted conspicuous and sustained increases in specific teaching behaviors after peer-mediated instruction was initiated. As portrayed in Figure 1, these increases in teaching behavior extended into the post-instructional phase of the study. Given the consistent increases in level across subjects, the data demonstrated the effectiveness of peer-mediation develop specific instructional behavior.



Results of this study demonstrated the effectiveness of a peer-mediation strategy to develop eight specific instructional behaviors in the eight pre-service teachers. This effect was replicated across subjects. However, because of the limited number of participants and the specificity of the target behaviors the generalizability of effect to a larger population may be restricted to these teacher trainees. Yet, the results of this study benefit not only the investigators’ teaching but also that of other college and university instructors. Identification of effective classroom techniques benefits the professor’s instructional choices. Because of identified efficacy, college and university instructors enhance student performance through these choices. Further research with a larger group of students may imitate the effectiveness of the presented instructional package.

Weaknesses of peer-mediation strategies, such as that described here, include: difficulties in grading, extensive teacher planning, ongoing need for teacher intervention, and acceptance of cooperative learning as an effective method of instruction (Vaughn, Bos, & Schumm, 1997). Yet, effective planning by the college instructor that involves assuring individual accountability, teaching collaboration and interdependence, providing opportunities for success, offering a conducive room arrangement, structuring activities to match academic goals, and enforcing a management plan may mitigate these weaknesses (Goof, & Schwenn; 1993; Waldron, 1995). But to make this work, structure is a necessary component of any peer-mediation strategy (Fantuzzo, Dimeff, & Fox, 1989). The benefits of peer-mediated instruction go beyond demonstrating targeted behavior. As McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, and Smith (1986) noted in their review of literature, peer-mediated learning involves motivational and cognitive assets.

In addition, it is recommended that peer-mediated teacher training include aspects of modeling, simulated practice using the target instructional procedure, actual teaching practice with the instructional procedure, and finally feedback (Showers, & Joyce, 1996). The model presented in this investigation did not include demonstration of targeted instructional behaviors in actual classrooms. This leads one to question whether the targeted eight instructional procedures would generalize to classroom teaching. A necessary part of a teacher-training program is the generalization of instructional behavior to the classroom. However, students may generalize skills taught within a group, such as that described here, better than those taught with more traditional forms of instruction (Morgan, Whorton, & Ficek, 1988). Further studies should investigate these effects.


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ROBERT L. MORGAN Department of Special Education University of Nebraska at Kearney

JAMES E. WHORTON Department of Special Education University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS

JOHN WILLETS Department of Special Education University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, NE

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