Promoting Student Engagement through Skill-Heterogeneous Peer Tutoring

Wolfgang Odendahl


This article is concerned with the effects of a specialized setup for student group work in L3 teaching. It promotes grouping students according to their skills in various subjects into heterogeneous groups as a way for inducing peer tutoring and raising student’s self-esteem. The motivation for this study sprang from an extra-curricular study project for subtitling German short films intended as a remedy for the widely observable study fatigue in Taiwanese German as a Foreign Language (GFL) majors. It turned out that combining students into workgroups couldn’t just rely on personal preferences, because the work required skillsets from three distinct areas: Project Management, Language, and Technology. As a solution to this kind of settings, this article proposes the instructor-organized creation of skill-heterogeneous workgroups. As theoretical background, it relies on findings from the fields of cooperative group work (e.g. Slavin, 2014; Cohen & Lotan, 2014, et al.), ability grouping and skill grouping (e.g. Missett, Brunner, Callahan, Moon, & Azano, 2014; Kulik & Kulik, 1992, et al.) in combination with motivational theories (e.g. Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Dörnyei, 2008; Reeve, 2009, et al.). The results of this project seem to indicate that the best way of grouping students was to assign each group an expert from one of the three main fields involved in subtitling. This way, every group member has authority in one field and can accept tutoring in the two remaining fields without losing face. The participating students enjoyed highly efficient group work that produced lasting synergetic effects in all areas involved.

Keywords: Group Work, Peer Tutoring, Student Engagement, Cooperative Learning, Placement


Group Work, Peer Tutoring, Student Engagement, Cooperative Learning, Placement

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