Nikki L. Josephs explored using peers to assist with reading fluency in her dissertation study, Using Peer-Mediated Fluency Instruction to Address the Needs of Adolescent Struggling Readers, for Georgia State University (2010). Her subjects were 7 high school students attending an alternative high school, reading between 4th and 7th grade level. Although seven students participated over the course of the study, results were only reported for five students because the other two did not complete all phases of the experiment. A peer-mediated design was selected to implement an intervention that maximized opportunity to respond and attempted to utilize peers for motivation. It appears that although students generally liked the program, there was some resistance to working with peers.
Ms. Josephs compared two interventions: repeated reading and continuous reading. Sessions were three times a week for 45 minutes each for a duration of 9 weeks. In repeated reading, students read a narrative passage at their individual reading level three times before being timed. A phrase error drill procedure was utilized. Words correct per minute and errors per minute were recorded by the individual students. Then students individually completed four comprehension questions- two literal and two inferential and the results were recorded. Under continuous reading, rather than reading the same 250 word passage, the students read three continuous passages. For all students, fluency rate increased the most under the repeated reading condition. Comprehension and errors results were mixed. Repeated readings resulted in an increase in comprehension question correctness for four of five students. All students exhibited a decrease in oral reading errors between baseline and the last reading mean, but the number per passage was highly variable over time.
This particular group of students was particularly challenging. They exhibited behavioral problems that resulted in them being placed in the program. Within the school, they continued to demonstrate challenging behaviors. Attendance at class was a concern as was punctuality and motivation to participate. Uncertified teachers and high staff turn over abounded within the school. Settings which have fewer of these concerns may have more positive results from such a program.
Using a peer-mediated fluency intervention at the high school level might be most successful if students do not have decoding or phonemic awareness issues. If a student reads at the fourth grade level he probably does not have decoding concerns. One of the concerns with the program is that students are responsible for identifying errors. In level matched dyads, both students may get "stuck" on challenging words, or may not be able to catch errors of their partners. Although the teacher and researcher circulated around the room during the program, many unidentified errors may have occurred.