International perspective of Peer Assisted Learning Strategies

International perspective of Peer Assisted Learning Strategies

First Author: Emma Vardy -- Coventry University
Keywords: Intervention studies, Paired Reading, Reading, Response to Intervention, Process Evaluation
Abstract / Summary: 

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is an evidence-based reading intervention, with over 20 years of American research demonstrating success. Building on this success, this symposium draws together four papers exploring the implementation of PALS internationally in Taiwan, Iceland, UK and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Using qualitative and quantitative methods, these papers show that amendments had to be made when using PALS outside of the USA but the approach to paired reading is still of benefit. Qualitatively pupils and teachers responded positively to PALS, and these positive thoughts are supported by the quantitative data with improvements in reading accuracy, decoding and comprehension being reported by the papers. The presenters will discuss the lessons they have learnt from their initial pilot work. Kristen McMaster, an expert on PALS will be the discussant for the session.

Symposium Papers: 

Research on kindergarten Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (K-PALS) in Iceland

First Author/Chair:Anna-Lind Pétursdóttir -- University of Iceland

Purpose: In Iceland, there is a system of publicly funded preschool which most children aged 2-5 attend 8 hours per day. The traditional pedagogy is play-based learning and little emphasis has been on explicit instruction. Thus, it is important to explore how preschool staff in Iceland perceive the structured Kindergarten-PALS program and to assess its effects on foundational reading skills of Icelandic children.
Method: Two studies were conducted. In a qualitative study, every K-PALS teacher in five preschools was interviewed about their perception of K-PALS and data analyzed through grounded theory. In a quantitative comparison study, early reading progress of the oldest cohort of two preschools taught with K-PALS (n=30) was compared to progress of children in two comparable preschools (n=27) taught with other methods for similar durations. Data was analyzed with ANCOVA and effect sizes calculated.
Results: Interviews revealed a generally positive perception of using K-PALS. Two participants reported initial negative views on K-PALS because it seemed too complicated and structured, bust also described how their attitude became gradually more positive upon seeing that the children liked K-PALS and made progress. All participants were unanimous on the positive effects of K-PALS and planned to continue using K-PALS. ANCOVA tests with pre-test scores as covariates revealed that the K-PALS group outperformed the comparison group in phonological awareness, letter knowledge, letter sound knowledge, letter sound fluency, and word-decoding skills. Effect sizes ranged from eta2 = 0,14 to 0,36.
Conclusions: Findings indicate that K-PALS is a beneficial addition to preschool practices in Iceland.

Evaluation of Grade 2-6 PALS with Year 5 pupils in the UK

First Author/Chair:Emma Vardy -- Coventry University

Purpose: Paired reading is increasing in popularity in UK schools; yet schools are not sure how best to implement such an approach. Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is an American same age, peer tutoring, reading intervention that to date has not been trialled in the UK despite overwhelmingly positive outcomes reported in the USA.
Method: The evaluation of Grade 2-6 PALS was conducted with Year 5 pupils at nine schools. The schools were randomly allocated to PALS (five schools) or control (four schools). A total of 322 (163 males and 159 females) participated in the project completing six measures pre-and post- intervention; York Assessment Reading Comprehension, British Ability Scale Word Reading, British Picture Vocabulary Scale, Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale, Myself as a Learner and a Reading Motivation Scale. Year 5 teachers were trained to deliver PALS and provided with the PALS manual to support implementation. Three observations were conducted during the 16-week intervention, focus groups and interviews with pupils and teachers were conducted at the end of the project.
Results: Initial analysis reports the pupils who received PALS outperformed the control group for reading accuracy, there were no other statistical significant differences between the control and PALS children on the other variables. The process evaluation provided detail information about the implementation, to unpick variations in delivery and the impact this had on effectiveness.
Conclusions: Drawing the data together this paper will discuss the importance of implementation fidelity of reading interventions by teachers to ensure similar results found in controlled studies are reported from teacher delivery.

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) for Chinese-speaking students: Effectiveness and nonresponders

First Author/Chair:Shu-Hsuan (Linda) Kung -- National Tsing Hua University

Purpose: To date, no study has implemented all PALS main elements exactly as described in the manual for Chinese-speaking students. The current quasi-experimental mixed-method study aimed to develop a model of differentiated instruction for PALS implementation to enhance the Chinese reading literacy of Chinese-speaking students in Taiwan.
Method: Two hundred thirty-seven sixth- and forth-graders were enrolled. For 14 weeks, the experimental group practiced PALS twice per week for 40 min during a Chinese reading class, and the control group followed conventional instruction.
Results: Two-way repeated-measures ANCOVA revealed that the PALS group showed higher overall performance on oral reading fluency probes (G6: d = .25,G4: d = .52), the Progress Monitoring Test of Reading Comprehension (a standardized reading comprehension test with national norms) (G6: d = .19,G4: d = .41) than the control group did. The criterion of nonresponders were based on the ORF benchmark for at-risk students of reading in Taiwan (G4 fall: < 129 WRC/min, G6 fall < 156 WRC/min, Su, et al., 2016) and the performance on the Progress Monitoring Test of Reading Comprehension ( < PR20). The reduction rates of nonresponders in the PALS group compared highly with those in the control group (G6: 80% vs. 55%,G4: 75% vs. 20%).
Conclusion: This study provides an empirical basis for a model of differentiated instruction through PALS for enhancing the reading literacy of Chinese-speaking elementary students. By monitoring students’ responses to PALS, practitioners could identify students at risk of reading failure.

Building Arabic reading skills: Feasiblity of Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies

First Author/Chair:Stephanie Al Otaiba -- Southern Methodist University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Reem; Al Ghanem; University of Connecticut;

Pupose:The Arabic language presents challenges for beginning readers: it is diglossic, letters are formed differently depending on their place in a word, and short vowels are represented only by diacritical marks (Al Ghanem & Kearnes, 2014). Data from the fourth grade Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS, 2011) indicated that across the Arab world 23-36% of children scored in the low range (400-474) (Boyle, Al Ajawi, & Xiang, 2013). The purpose of the this preliminary pilot study was to examine the feasibility of Peer Assisted Learning Strategies.
Method: It was conducted in an elementary bilingual school in the United Arab Emirates. As is typical in most Arabic language arts programs, the school reading curriculum emphasized a whole language and whole word approach that did not emphasize phonological skills and decoding. The school had begun to implement PALS in English. We designed an Arabic version of PALS that used similar instructional routines for consistency with the original English version, but the scope and sequence was tailored to Arabic language. We observed PALS and also interviewed teachers and students.
Results: Qualitative findings from this initial pilot revealed that the participating teachers and children (grades 1-4) enjoyed PALS, teachers reported that students‘ reading scores were higher and that students were learning to decode and to encode.
Conclusions: Revisions of the program are underway and a direction for future research is to conduct further efficacy work both with Arab immigrant students in the United States and Arab students in the Middle East.


First Author/Chair:DISCUSSANT Kristen McMaster -- University of Minnesota