Peer Tutoring in Further Education
: A Study of the perceived experiences for a group of GCSE Resit and A Level Students and their Teachers

  • Michelle Whitehead

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This case study explores the perceptions of students and staff at a Further Education (FE) college, who chose to participate and implement a new peer tutoring programme. It
considers the ways in which government policy impacts upon the FE sector and the difficulties this can cause, when dealing with large numbers of GCSE English and maths resit
students. The experiences of the GCSE resit students taking part and the A Level students, who carried out a tutoring role, are explored alongside those of the key curriculum staff involved. Peer tutoring in Higher Education (HE) is a practice whereby Y2 or Y3 students provide additional support to new undergraduates; however, peer tutoring in FE is not commonly used and there is limited research within this field. I was motivated to see if some of the documented advantages of peer tutoring, such as increased confidence and academic success, would transfer to an FE context and to find out how students and staff would perceive both the benefits and challenges of being involved. This research is located within UK government legislation on post-16 education and the changes to the GCSE English qualification. It is also located within the literature on peer tutoring in HE and schools, noting that social learning theory is generally used to theorise those studies. A qualitative approach is adopted and interviews with students and staff are conducted to examine their motivations for participating, as well as evaluating approaches to the peer tutoring programme delivery. The study conceptualises peer tutoring within a Bourdieuian framework to analyse whether being involved in the research impacts on the students’ educational goals and social relations. I use Bourdieu’s notions of capitals, habitus and fields to offer insight into student and staff perceptions, whilst also applying them to the broader concepts of structure and agency. I conclude by reviewing the study’s overall findings and contribution to new knowledge, namely that within the peer tutoring project the students formed ‘functional friendships’, a new term coined for this research and defined as: a purposeful relationship between peers, which is motivated by a mutually beneficial bond, or shared goals, and lasts until the purpose of that relationship has been fulfilled. Relationships built within these functional friendships were found to invert the usual dynamic of higher and lower capital. Bearing in mind this study is the first to use a Bourdieuian approach to peer tutoring, the findings also outline elements of a theoretical contribution to new knowledge. Recommendations for further research into peer tutoring in FE, with a focus on broadening out across wider curriculum areas, are then made, before reflecting on the importance of educational research from both personal and professional perspectives.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLisa Russell (Co-Supervisor) & Andrew Youde (Co-Supervisor)

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