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Children Teach Children

reviewed by Mary Alice White - 1972

coverTitle: Children Teach Children
Author(s): Alan Gartner, Mary Kohler, Frank Riessman
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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The forward summarizes this book well: "This volume reports the experiences of cur­rent projects in which young people learn through teaching...." After a brief historical nod in the direction of Quintilian and Lan­caster, this volume describes the projects of the Lippitts in cross-age learning in Michigan and in Bethel, Maine; the Mobilization for Youth homework helper program; Thelen's "caring relationship" project with the University of Chicago's Laboratory School; the Youth Tutoring Youth program of the Neighborhood Youth Corps; the tutorial community developed by System Develop­ment Corporation in Los Angeles; the "each one teach one" program in an elementary school in Yonkers, N.Y.; and the "learning cell" design in use in certain undergraduate courses at McGill in which students learn through teaching each other.

Most readers of the Record are likely to accept the basic premise that "children and youth learn far more when performing the teaching role than when acting as students in the classroom," particularly if they have had any teaching experience (nothing is so salutory to learning as teaching). Where such readers may want more information is in the area of systematic assessment of the process, which this book does not offer.

What the reader will get are rich descrip­tions of these programs, and considerable re­porting of first-hand experiences in starting such programs. The intent of the book is to describe and to help implement similar pro­grams, and this it does in an interesting way, with attractive photographs of children teaching each other. This book should inter­est teachers and principals who would like to initiate programs of this kind.

The weakness this reviewer finds is the lack of sturdy assessment of how this process improves learning. Yes, there are some data, but one wonders about test exposure in the data reported for the Mobililization For Youth program (pp. 23-24) where the tutors were given seven months of tutoring sessions, two weeks of training, and weekly in-service sessions with licensed teachers, as a result of which they gained 3.4 years of reading, com­pared with 1.7 years for the controls (not described). How the substance of these sessions may have contributed to improved test performance is a fairly central issue.

With this caveat (the kind one has to ex­pect from reviewers with a prejudice for data) let me emphasize my enthusiasm for the cen­tral purpose of this volume, which is summa­rized in a quotation from a gentleman named Fowle, written in 1866, which, to my mind, captures the radical contribution that chil­dren teaching children can make: "The art of teaching depends more upon adapting the ex­planation to the capacity of the learner than upon the amount of knowledge accumulated by the teacher. Is it unreasonable then to suppose that the explanations of children may sometimes be better suited to the under­standing of children than those of adults would be?"

Yes, read this introductory volume, and then let us investigate what happens educa­tionally when Children Teach Children.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 73 Number 4, 1972, p. 606-606
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1618, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 8:22:20 AM

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