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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) - Topic 21

What is it?

Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies or PALS is an evidence-based reading intervention implemented as an extension of core classroom reading programs. PALS requires approximately 30 minutes 3 times a week for 16 to 20 weeks to be effective. PALS initially targets struggling readers in the primary grades by pairing readers of higher and lower proficiency to practice skills in phonological awareness, word recognition, phonics, fluency, and comprehension. Structured dialogue about the text is incorporated from grade 2 and higher to address the increased complexity of reading and enhance comprehension. There are also middle and high school versions of the program that increasingly emphasize comprehension skills. Each student in the dyad takes a turn being the reader or coach, allowing for active engagement with the text and increased practice time compared to regular instruction.  The teacher is responsible for matching the students’ needs and abilities with the proper reading materials and for monitoring their progress.  Positive reinforcement through praise and point systems are built into the program to increase on-task time and student motivation.

Why is it important?

Graduates from the MOSAIC program will need access to reading interventions that are evidence-based, easy to implement, and effective for a variety of learners. PALS is important because its structure allows for scaffolding and differentiated instruction in the classroom.  It has also been shown through empirically designed research to increase reading outcomes for low, average and high achieving students as well as for English Language Learners (ELLs).  PALS can be implemented within a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework in accordance with IDEA 2004. Evidence suggests that PALS, when implemented with fidelity in conjunction with Tier-1 instruction, can reduce the number of student placements in Tiers 2 and 3. PALS programs are generally inexpensive and have been described by educators as easy to implement and enjoyable to use.


Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L.S., Thompson, A., Yen, L., Al Otaiba, S., Nyman, K., Svenson, E.,

Yang, N., Prentice, K., Kazdan, S., & Saentz, L. (2001). Peer-assisted learning strategies in

reading: Extensions for kindergarten, first grade, and high school. Remedial and Special

Education, 22, 15-21.

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L.S., & Burish, P. (2000). Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies: An

evidence-based practice to promote reading achievement. Learning Disabilities Research and

Practice, 15, 85-91.

Web Links

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development - PALS

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