3 min read

Why ChatGPT Will Never Replace Peer Tutoring

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ChatGPT is capable of answering questions and providing information on a plethora of topics. However, despite its advanced technology and vast knowledge, there are some things it simply cannot replace. One of these things is academic support through peer tutoring on college campuses.

Machine vs. Peer

Peer tutoring provides a level of human connection that cannot be substituted by a machine. When students work with a peer tutor either in person or via online tutoring, they are able to build a relationship and establish trust with their tutor. This relationship can be incredibly valuable, as it empowers students to ask questions and seek help without fear of judgment or embarrassment. 

In addition to providing a supportive and non-judgmental environment, peer tutors can also offer a level of empathy and understanding that would be difficult for a machine to replicate. A peer tutor who has experienced the same struggles and challenges as the student with whom they are working can offer insights and advice that may be more relatable and applicable than the answers provided by a machine. Moreover, the peer tutor is very likely to have taken the course being tutored or at the very least the peer tutor has taken courses in the subject or with the same professor, something that ChatGPT – despite its vast wealth of knowledge - cannot deliver.

Furthermore, peer tutoring provides students with the opportunity to practice soft, transferable competencies like communication and interpersonal skills. In an era where so much of our communication takes place online, the ability to connect with others in person and build relationships is becoming increasingly rare. In Paul Barnwell’s 2014 article in The Atlantic, he said, “I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students.” 

“Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?" - Paul Barnwell

Peer tutoring, not ChatGPT tutoring, provides both the students and the tutors with an opportunity to enhance their communication skills and build relationships that can be valued both inside and outside of the classroom and both on and off campus.

Another benefit of peer-to-peer learning not provided by ChatGPT is the ability of the peer tutor to tailor the tutoring experience to the individual needs of the student. A peer tutor who is working with a student in person can observe the student's behavior and responses and adjust their approach accordingly. They can also take into account the student’s learning style and preferences and create a customized learning experience that is tailored to the individual student.

Peer tutoring can also provide students with a sense of community and belonging, which is something technology cannot offer. College campuses with peer tutoring programs that are staffed by fellow students create a sense of camaraderie and support among peers. Students who participate in peer learning programs can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in helping their fellow students and can build relationships and connections that support the tutees in their general sense of well-being on campus. 

How ChatGPT Can Augment Peer Tutoring

While ChatGPT should not and could not replace peer assisted learning on a college campus, that does not mean it cannot play a valuable role in supporting peer tutoring programs and helping them succeed. One way in which ChatGPT can support peer tutoring is by providing students with access to information and resources that may help them succeed. For example, ChatGPT can provide tutees with information about effective study strategies, time management techniques, and test-taking tips. 

ChatGPT can also help peer tutors by providing them with information and resources that can help them better serve their students. It can provide peer tutors with information about common misconceptions and mistakes that students make, for example, and offer tips and strategies for addressing those issues. ChatGPT can also provide peer tutors with access to practice questions and study materials they can use with their students.

Not Wrong, But Also Not Right

ChatGPT is an incredibly powerful tool and one that we as educators must familiarize ourselves with – it appears to be here to stay. Ultimately, though, it could never be able to fully replace peer tutoring on college campuses. The human connection, empathy, and customized approach that peer tutoring provides cannot be replicated by a machine. ChatGPT can, however, play a valuable role in supporting and enhancing college tutoring programs.