Mar 16, 2022
Published in: Education Endowment Foundation website (2022)
Posted on RAND.org on March 15, 2022
Peer Assisted Learning Strategies UK (PALS-UK) is a whole-class, structured peer tutoring intervention aiming to improve pupils' reading comprehension, oral reading fluency, and overall reading attainment. Pupils are paired and take part in four activities: partner reading (pupils take turns reading while their partner corrects any reading errors), re-tell (one pupil retells the passage just read with prompts from their partner), paragraph shrinking (each pupils reads a short passage and summarises what they have read), and prediction relay (pupils take turns to read and predict what will happen in the next half-page of the story). PALS was developed in the United States by Douglas Fuchs, Lynn Fuchs, and other researchers from Vanderbilt University. The intervention was adapted for the U.K. context and delivered by Dr Emma Vardy (Nottingham Trent University) and Dr Helen Breadmore (University of Birmingham). The U.K. delivery team members were affiliated to Coventry University at the outset of the trial. The trial started in February 2019 and ended in April 2021, but was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme was delivered by teachers who received one day of initial training from the PALS-UK team followed by a half-day top-up training. Pupils also received training from their teacher over the first four weeks of the programme to learn how to undertake the four PALS activities and work collaboratively with their peers. This project was delivered to Year 5 pupils (age 9 to 10) three times a week for 30–35 minutes per session for 20 weeks.
The efficacy trial was a two-arm stratified cluster-randomised controlled trial, randomised at the school-level; 89 schools and 2,283 pupils took part. The trial tested the impact of PALS-UK on pupils' reading attainment, measured by the PIRA assessment (the primary outcome), as well as on oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, and reading self-efficacy (secondary outcomes). An Implementation and Process Evaluation (IPE) was also conducted, including observations of training and delivery, surveys, and interviews with school staff. Project delivery took place as planned but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, primary outcome testing was delayed by six months; secondary outcome testing for reading fluency and comprehension could not be completed and IPE activities were disrupted.