Peer-Assisted Interventions

What are peer-assisted behavioral interventions?

Most interventions used to modify student behavior are typically teacher mediated. The teacher sets up and implements the behavior plan and gives the student cues and feedback regarding their behavior. In peer-mediated interventions, the teacher designs a program and trains a peer or peers to deliver needed social cues and the reinforcement that may follow targeted behavioral outcomes. Many peer-mediated interventions combine self-monitoring interventions with a peer-partnered intervention. Although peer-mediated interventions are used infrequently, there is promising research indicating that it can be beneficial to all involved.

What are the advantages for using peer-assisted behavioral interventions in the general education classroom?

Peer-mediated interventions have several advantages. A well set up intervention mediated by a peer can free up the teacher to engage in other teaching activities. Instead of cueing and delivering feedback to target students, teachers can focus on academic tasks, help other students in need, or simply have uninterrupted teaching time. Students with a peer support plan actually receive an increase in individualized attention, especially when partnered with a same age appropriate peer. Well-trained peer mediators actually allow the target student to receive more immediate feedback more often as the mediator is often assigned one student and a teacher usually has several to monitor at one time. Additionally, when the target student is assigned several peer mediators across settings, maintenance and generalization of social skills being reinforced is more likely. (DuPaul, McGoey, & Yugar, 1997). Peer mediated interventions may consequently result in the improved behavior and academic performance of the peer mediating the intervention (DuPaul & Henningson, 1993; Gardill et al., 1996). Students respond to peer feedback more often than an adult initiated contact in intermediate grades and up. Educators have utilized role reversal interventions where a student who may have behavioral issues acts as a mentor or tutor for a younger student with promising results. Because this capitalizes on the tutor’s strengths and promotes responsibility, positive behavioral changes occur through the reverse role tutoring (Tournaki & Criscitiello, 2003).

What characteristics do effective peer-assisted behavioral interventions have?

Clear objectives, boundaries, and ground rules need to be established with both the target student and the peer mediator through training done by the educator. Confidentiality and child protection issues need to be covered in training to ensure the privacy of the target student is protected. Peer-mediated intervention programs need to be monitored and evaluated by staff to ensure that all involved parties are experiencing positive results. Peer mediators need to be instructed on identifying when a situation is out of their level of expertise and when to ask for assistance and/or support from an adult.

What are some examples of peer-mediated behavioral interventions?

  1. Peer Modeling

    Peer modeling can be used in a variety of ways. It has been used to demonstrate socially appropriate behavior to students who lack social and classroom skills. Teachers can stage modeling opportunities by having a less socially competent student observe a model as they engage in social interactions, play opportunities, and appropriate classroom behaviors. Teachers have paired model students and students who lack in skills for years. However, simply pairing students is not an effective strategy. Peer models need to be trained by the teacher to make the desired impact (Utley, Mortweet, & Greenwood, 1997).

  2. Peer Initiation Training

    Peer initiation training involves a teacher training typical peers to evoke and maintain desired social and interactive behaviors from a target child (Utley, Mortweet, & Greenwood, 1997). Some of the common behaviors that peers have been taught to facilitate are establishing eye contact, play activities, starting a conversation, offering or asking for help, expanding content of speech, and demonstrating affection and feelings (Utley, Mortweet, & Greenwood, 1997). This approach can be time and labor intensive, especially as the peer initiated training begins. The teacher needs to be involved to cue and reinforce the typical peer to maximize the desired results in the target child.

  3. Role Reversal Tutoring

    Role Reversal Tutoring is described in an article written in 2003 entitled Using Peer Tutoring as a Successful Part of Behavior Management (Tournaki & Criscitiello, 2003). This article outlined a program where students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) were chosen to tutor students without disabilities in the general education setting with the purpose of improving the behavior of the students with EBD.

    The program used student tutors who were on grade level tutoring non-disabled peers who were below grade level. Students were paired with regard to academic and social factors. Tutors were proud of their tutoring responsibilities and this intrinsic motivation was enough, therefore no tangibles rewards were used. Teachers sought to reduce six target behaviors: pushing, hitting, cursing, screaming, interrupting, and being out of seat. Teacher assistants in the room monitored each tutor’s behavior during the tutoring sessions.

    Each day, the teacher taught a lesson in the area of Language Arts. After the lesson, the tutors were matched with their tutees. Before the tutoring session began, the teacher would meet briefly with the pairs, go over the steps of the tutoring session, and provide materials. The tutor would then read a passage and pre-assigned follow up questions to his partner. The tutee would then be asked to retell the passage and finally write about it. The tutor would give feedback as the tutee wrote and would also give points for correct writing (punctuation, capitalization, spelling). Staff intervened when any of the tutor’s target behaviors occurred and delivered consequences. The frequency of the tutors’ target behaviors dropped by one-third, and duration dropped by two-thirds after two weeks of role reversal tutoring. Tutees’ average writing scores increased by almost 40%.

  4. Class Wide Peer Assisted Self Management Program

    In a paper presented at the International Special Education Congress 2000, an interesting program for including special needs students in the general education classroom was presented by Timothy L. Mitchem from West Virginia University.

    The Class Wide Peer Assisted Self Management Program (CWPASM) involves both self management and peer-mediated matching. In this program, the teacher trains all students in self-monitoring (both how to and benefits of), the A,B,C’s of behavior (antecedent, behavior, and consequence), and the rating system itself. Students are asked to choose three students in the room with whom they would like to be partnered and the teacher assigns pairs based on these preferences. Each partnership is then assigned to one of two teams. Teams were randomly formed at the beginning of each week. The teacher then identifies the interval for cueing students to evaluate their behavior and mark their cards. Each student evaluates and marks both his or her own behavior and their partner’s behavior on a point card. Students earn points for appropriate behavior recorded on their cards as well as a bonus point for matching with their partner. Each pair earned points for their team with daily team winners being announced at the end of each day. The team that won the most in a given week gets to choose from a menu of class activities on Friday.

    In a study done on CWPASM (Mitchem, Young, West, & Benyo, 2001), target students were on-task more than 80% of the period, compared to 35% during baseline. Students also improved their instruction-following behavior from baseline averages of 52% to 85%. The teacher in the study reported feeling less stressed because students were more engaged in academics and shared that she would use it again in the future. Students surveyed gave CWPASM moderate to high satisfaction ratings.

  5. The “Good Student Game” with Group Monitoring

    The “Good Student Game” (Landrum & Tankersly, 1997) is a class-wide game used during quiet, independent work times to increase on task student behaviors. Students are taught to work in teams and monitor each other. Students are directly taught targeted behaviors, monitoring techniques, and procedures for the games. The teacher can make goals for each group individually or for the class as a whole. For instance, the teacher might set the criteria that each group that earns 80% of their points over the course of the day will earn the reinforcer, or require the class as a whole to earn 80% of their points collectively. Teachers determine the interval at which the group monitors evaluate the behavior of the group. Some teachers set timers or have a prerecorded tape to signal the recording intervals.

    Tips for Success Implementation of “The Good Student Game” 
    (Adapted from Babak, Luze, & Kamps, 2000)

    • Teacher decides when to play the game, chooses two to three target behaviors that are most problematic, defines behaviors in positive, observable terms, and uses direct, systematic instruction to teach desired behaviors.
    • Teacher sets goals and selects reinforcers. Goals can be individual (only groups who achieve 80%) or class wide (when entire class achieves 80%). Goals should be reasonable and easily attained when first beginning the game.
    • Goals and intervals should be increased over time. Initially, intervals of one to three minutes are recommended.
    • Reinforcers can be determined by watching student preferences or surveys.
    • Popular reinforcers include: stickers, treats, free assignment coupons, extra recess, quiet indoor activities, and parties.
    • Prerecorded signals may be used instead of timers.
    • Arguing with a monitor, a team member, or teacher is not allowed. Arguing will result in a certain percentage of points being lost.

    In a study on “The Good Student Game” published in 2000, three classrooms took data. The baseline revealed that 56% of the time students were in their seats and quiet during independent work times. After the game was introduced and implemented, students were quiet and in their seat 88% of the time (Babak, Luze, & Kamps, 2000).

References/Recommended Resources

Babyak, A.E., Luze, G.J., Kamps, D.M. (2000). The good student game: Behavior
management for diverse classrooms. Intervention in School and Clinic, 
35, 4, 216-223. 
DuPaul, G.J. & Henningson, P.N. (1993). Peer tutoring effects on the classroom
performance of children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. School 
Psychology Review, 22, 1, 134-143.
DuPaul, G.J., McGoey, K.E., & Yugar, J.M. (1997). Mainstreaming students with
behavior disorders: The use of classroom peers as facilitators of generalization. The 
School Psychology Review, 26, 4, 634-50.
Gardill, M.C., DuPaul, G.J., & Kyle, K.E. (November, 1996). Classroom strategies for
managing students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Intervention in 
School and Clinic, 32, 89-94. 
Landrum, T., & Tankersley, M. (February, 1997). Implementing effective self-
management for students with behavioral disorders. Paper presented at the Midwest 
Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders, Kansas City, MO.
Mitchem, K.J., Young, K.R., West, R.P., & Benyo, J. (2001). CWPASM: A classwide
peer-assisted self management program for general education classrooms. Education 
and Treatment of Children, 24, 2, 111-140.
Mitchem, T.L. (July, 2000). A classwide peer assisted self-management program. Paper
presented at the International Special Education Congress at the University of 
Manchester, United Kingdom. 
Tournaki, N & Criscitiello, E (2003). Using peer tutoring as a successful part of
behavior management. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36, 2, 22-29.
Utley, C.A., Mortweet, S.L., Greenwood, C.R. (1997). Peer-mediated instruction and
interventions. Focus on Exceptional Children, 29, January 1997, 1-23. 

Additional Recommended Resources

Tankersley, M. (1995). A group-oriented contingency management program: A review of
research on the good behavior game and implications for teachers. Preventing 
School Failure, 40, Fall 1995, 19-24.