STUDENTS AS TEACHERS "To teach is to learn twice" is an adage at work in a growing number of classrooms across the nation. Professional teachers are finding allies among their students, as the effectiveness and possibilities of students teaching their peers, younger students, and adults is becoming increasingly evident in research. Possibilities | Examples | Programs | Tools | Research

Meaningful Student Involvement Def: Engaging students as partners in educational planning, research, teaching, evaluating, decision-making, advocacy, and more.

POSSIBILITIES for Students as Classroom Teachers

  • Students teaching regular lessons in their classes
  • Students serving as teaching assistants
  • Students partnering with teachers or peers to deliver curriculum
  • Students teaching peers students in lower grade levels
  • Students teaching adults and facilitating professional development

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EXAMPLES of Students as Teachers


Pedagogy for Peers After teaching her ninth grade students the basics of composition, English teacher Kathleen Shaw of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, had the class teach each other about grammar devices, with the question in mind, “Can they explain grammar to someone else?”  Shaw writes, “Best of all, the students learned important lessons through the assignment. They clarified some grammatical points their classmates might have been confused about, they had the thrill of creating something new, they compromised with their partners and they experienced speaking before a large group. Maybe they even gained a little more respect for their teachers“.


Technology in the Trenches A national nonprofit organization based in Olympia, Washington, promotes the role of technology in education by engaging students as expert trainers to teachers in elementary, middle and senior high schools. Students learn complex computer skills, as well as how to design lesson plans and deliver training.  Educators, in turn, learn about students’ capacities for technology and teaching. Generation YES claims to be the only program that engages students as professional development experts in schools.


Students at the Centre The Manitoba School Improvement Project teaches students about learning, including multiple intelligences, brain-based learning, learning styles, and emotional intelligence.  Students work with teachers to have a voice in their own learning, and in the direction of their classroom.  The program, working in three urban high schools, has seen students – with the support of school administration – propose entirely new structures for giving students a say in classroom issues and directions.  The changes include cross-grade groupings, and student training in facilitation and leadership skills. 


Serving Up Learning Students at Vashon Island (Washington) High School conducted multiple teacher in-service trainings on service learning. The student/teachers, ages 12-18, taught teachers, school administrators, city officials and other community members about service learning for two three-hour sessions. The student/teachers incorporated multiple teaching styles, attempting to appeal to the diverse learning styles participants came with. Lively dialogue, initiative activities, small group facilitation, brainstorming and action planning were all included in the student-planned, student-led trainings. 


Raising Educational Stars The Breakthrough Collaborative, based in San Francisco, California, is a highly successful after-school program for students of color. They believe so strongly in the effectiveness of students as teachers that their tagline is “Students Teaching Students.”  The organization shares the following anecdote: “During one of the first summers, several high school students who were acting as teaching assistants took over the classroom for a math teacher who had fallen ill. When the teacher returned, she observed that her students were working harder for the older students than they had for her. By coincidence, this ‘experimental’ teaching model sparked the interest of the younger students who loved having the high school students as their teachers and mentors. Suddenly, seventh and eighth grade students who never believed it was cool to be smart were reciting Shakespeare, learning the Pythagorean Theorem and studying the laws of physics. [Breakthrough] was a booming success”.


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PROGRAMS featuring Students as Teachers


Breakthrough Collaborative Breakthrough is a national program that teaches students to be teachers in after school and summer school programs.

Generation YES This organization provides two students-as-teachers curricula to schools to support technology literacy. TechYES engages students as technology teachers for their peers; GenYES trains students to teach teachers how to use technology in the classroom.

Moving to the head of the class: students who teach in summer programs learn, give back. Cervone, B. (2001) WKCD News Series 1(2). Providence, RI: What Kids Can Do.  [PDF]

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TOOLS for Students as Teachers



RESEARCH for Students as Teachers


Cervone, B. (2001) “Making youth known: Moving to the head of the class: students who teach in summer programs learn, give back.” WKCD News Series 1(2). Providence, RI: What Kids Can Do. Retrieved from here.


Dean, L. & Murdock, S. (1992). “Effect Of voluntary service on adolescent attitudes toward learning,” Journal of Volunteer Administration 10(4): 5-10.


Gartner, A, & Riessman, F. (1993). Peer-tutoring: Toward a new model. ERIC Digest ED362506. Retrieved from here.


Lee, F. C. H., & Murdock, S. (2001). “Teenagers as teachers programs: Ten essential elements,” Journal of Extension 39(1). Retrieved from here.


Sarason, S. (1998). “Ch. 11: Students as teachers” in Teaching as a Performing Art.

New York: Teachers College Press.


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