Russian Dolls, sticks of rock and other useful metaphors.

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Our approach to training Peer Tutors is, like all of our training, underpinned by our 10 Learning Essentials.  These are like the letters running through a stick of UFA rock. All of our training seeks to embody these.

But for our Peer Tutor training we need another metaphor too.  We often explain this process using the metaphor of Russian Dolls.


First and foremost the peer tutor training is a learning experience.  The Peer Tutors are learners in this situation, guided through it by one of our team of trainers.  So, we can think of the UFA trainer as the biggest doll, with the Peer Tutors being a slightly smaller doll, the learner. So far, so straightforward.

However, as trainee Peer Tutors they have to hold on to this present moment experience as well as looking to the future when they will be leading or supporting another learner – another layer, another doll.

We feel it is really important to point this out at the start. Modelling is always a big part of what we aim to do at the UFA, in this case we say explicitly to the trainee peer tutors, ‘watch me’, ‘pay attention to what I say and do’, ‘you might be in a situation as a peer tutor when you have to lead a small group learning activity.’ ‘How will you do it?’ ‘What will you say?’ ‘How will you behave?’

So, perhaps our Peer Tutor training is a bit different to some programmes which focus more on subject content.  We have as our central focus helping those young people to gain a better understanding of the learning process, so that as Peer Tutors they can better support their tutees, whether that be in individual 1:1 sessions or small group situations.

Our Peer Tutor training programme begins with two days of intensive training led by us.

During those first two days of training we explore:

  • Examining a positive learning experience: what helps? who helps?
  • How different people learn in different ways
  • How to deal with difficult situations/scenarios and how to respond as a Peer Tutor
  • How to promote a growth mindset – in yourself and your tutees
  • The power of language and how to use it positively
  • Peer critique and giving good feedback that is honest, constructive, specific and kind.
  • Practicing being a Peer Tutor – how different types of learning task demand different approaches – sometimes expert, sometimes coach.
  • Drawing on and developing leadership characteristics for this role

Following this, the lead at the school is encouraged to give 1:1 and group support and supervision sessions to help with on-the-job learning.

The data from over 650 UFA Peer Tutors trained in the last four years shows the kind of impact the training has on the tutors:

  • 79% said they feel more able to face challenges in the future
  • 81% said they believe the course has helped them become a better learner
  • 85% said they will be able to use some of the skills they have learnt in other places
  • 80% said they learnt some new problem solving activities
  • 91% said they have improved their teamwork skills
  • 76% said they improved their confidence to communicate their ideas to others

We are pleased to see the clear link between these outcomes and Ofsted’s criteria for spiritual, moral and cultural development.

Our next step is to dig deeper and find out more about the nature of this impact on their own learning, achievement and the development of leadership characteristics that we believe are so important for learning, work and life.

We have been training Peer Tutors for nearly 20 years, and whilst we know we can always learn more and are continually reflecting on and improving our programme, it’s clear we’re doing something right.

But don’t just take our word for it – take a look at the experience from the point of view of a Peer Tutor or take a look at this case study from Honley High.

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