Students as Teachers

during the action phase of the three-part lesson


As a Peel District School Board Elementary Student Work Study Teacher, I was placed in four schools and worked with eight host teachers. Our relationship was based on the collaborative inquiry model of co-planning, co-teaching and co-debriefing. The first few weeks in the classroom were based on observing student work in order to establish an area of greatest need and to develop a level of trust among teachers and students. Embedded are the voices of the students who were working through level two in a variety of subjects.

My supposition is based on the student voice where students taught each other during the action part of the three-part lesson. My host teachers and I created an environment that was a safe place for students to work at their own developmental ability. By providing this type of learning environment for the students, opportunities for immediate feedback and differentiated instruction prevailed. Students gave each other chances, provided all students a voice at the table, made others feel good about making mistakes and used other students’ strategies to help move their thinking forward. This learning provided the students with the empowerment to know and understand where they were as a learner, so we as teachers could better understand where they were developmentally and move their thinking forward from there. They became their own advocates for their learning.

Literature Review and Further Reading

“Peer learning can be powerful-whether cooperatively or competitively...When there is some structure to this peer learning (as in most instances of cooperative and competitive learning) then the power of peers can be unleashed. Students are more able to collectively make and learn from errors, and their conversations can assist in having the goals, learning intentions and success criteria from a lesson spelt out for all.”

Visible Learning, John Hattie, Routledge, 2012

Doing Mathematics with Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6, A Parents Guide suggests that, “before your child can learn mathematics, he or she needs to believe in his or her ability to do so. When you engage with your child in a supportive, relaxed atmosphere, your child will enjoy taking risks while having fun with math!“ This is the climate we tried to create in our literacy and numeracy blocks. It also explains, “When children feel positively engaged and successful, they are more likely to stick with an activity or a problem to find a solution. “ In order for this to possibly occur, “beginning with activities that meet your child’s level of mathematical understanding” should happen in a parallel fashion with the climate. Doing Mathematics with Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6, A Parents Guide,

Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, (June 2011) Word Problems Research Monograph

Resources Host Teachers and SWST Used to Guide Our Practice


  • four schools
  • eight host teachers
  • two day a week for four months
  • record observations, transcriptions, and reflections
  • shared key observations with classroom teachers
  • reflected upon student learning as evidenced by conversations, observations, and products
  • co-learning in the form of informal dialogue and teacher release time (25 days/school)
  • identified patterns for supposition
  • research-based practice by referencing and purchasing approved resources

Evidence in Literacy and Numeracy

The difference that was making a difference for the students was shared during one-on-one interviews

Student F: “Giving people chances.”

Student G: ”Sharing ideas and learning from each other.”

Student H: “Getting feedback right away from my friends and teachers. Being able to use it to grow makes you feel good.”

Student I: “Hearing other people's strategies.”

My host teacher really felt that the student voice was key.

“They now ask for things that will work for them - checklists, new places for materials, certain peer groupings.”

The students that were struggling initially were now learning from their peers, advocating for where they were at as a learner and searching for the teacher to show her their new learning.

Through differentiated learning opportunities, students attempted multiple problem-based opportunities during the literacy and numeracy block. We moved from what we thought was making a difference – Big Ideas, Learning Goals and Success Criteria, to committing to learning opportunities from their peers.


"We are smarter together!", Host Teacher comment to her students.

“When students become teachers of others, they learn as much as those they are teaching. When they have some control or autonomy over this teaching, the effects are higher.” Hattie, p. 187, 2012

Host Teacher Voice

During a moderation session, the host teacher reflected on how the learning environment had changed from being quiet to where “reading isn’t quiet”, that “students are teachers too” and that her “reflection plus immediate feedback made for celebration!”

The difference that seemed to make the difference for our students was the opportunity for students to work with and from each other as teachers during the action phase of the three-part lesson in literacy and numeracy. The students were engaged and worked freely with each other. They showed evidence of improving student work through not only products, but in their conversations and during our walkabouts for observational notes. Once the climate was cleared in every learning environment, where all students understood that we were facilitators of the class and they were splendid little teachers and the learning began. Students became self directed, empowered to be “right where they were suppose to be” in their level of development in literacy and numeracy and were able to recognize that they were “getting smarter”.

Opportunities to Deepen the Work

At the core of the work with my host teachers and students, we celebrated all successes. We celebrated the climate that was created, the learning opportunities that we co-constructed and our focus on the students’ work. If the work didn’t make it to the students’ desks or in their deep conversations, then we felt we had learning opportunities to provide. Salient to all of this, was creating and maintaining and open to learning stance, where we continue to want to learn as professionals. I continue to wonder if providing opportunities for like-minded teachers to work together in networks would be helpful to deepen this work. I also wonder if we provide time for those teachers to share their journeys with their peers, if that wouldn’t also deepen the work. I am hopeful that we can find creative ways to allow time for teachers to collaborate, moderate, and model their new learning, where we support the model of “don’t tell me, show me” in a transparent and safe manner. We would ultimately want to create a “for” learning opportunity for teachers, administrators and students.

Clearing the Climate for Learning From and With Each Other

“The effect size of peers on learning is high (d=0.52-well above the average of 0.40) and can be much higher if the some of the negative influences of peers is mitigated. Reasons to engage peers in classroom learning include: helping, tutoring, providing friendship, reducing isolation, giving feedback and making class and school a place to which students want to come each day. Peers can assist in providing social comparisons, emotional support, social facilitation, cognitive restructuring, and rehearsal or deliberative practice. They can provide caring, support and help, and can ease conflict resolution, and this can lead to more learning opportunities, enhancing academic achievement. Students, particularly during early adolescence, tend to want to have a reputation among their peers and one aim should be to make this reputation about success in learning academic topics”.-John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers, 2012

Davies, Anne, Making Classroom Assessment Work, Second Edition, 2007, Courtenay, B.C., Canada, Connections Publishing

Fosnot, C.T., Models of Intervention in Mathematics, Reweaving the Tapestry, 2010, New York, New York, Pearson).

Small, Marion., Good questions, Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction, Second Edition, 2012, Nelson Education

Hattie, John., Visible Learning for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Learning, 2012, New York, New York, Routledge

Nikki Hutchison

Student Work Study Teacher, Peel District School Board