Throughout the field of corrections in the United States, the prevalent question in regard to reentry preparation of offenders is, “what works?” With a renewed focus on providing meaningful program opportunities for offenders that enable real and sustained changes for reentry success, which has been partially driven by overcrowded prison systems and soaring corrections budgets, the quest has been energized for program models with results that are empirically based. As part of this quest, the Rand Corporation in 2014 (Davis, et al., 2014) published a comprehensive review of correctional education programs based on a meta-analysis of past studies and reported that offenders involved in education programs were significantly more likely to realize success after release from prison than those that were not involved in these programs.
In their 2014 final report, the Rand Corporation made recommendations for research efforts at the state and federal levels (Davis et al., 2014). One of their recommendations was to determine what types of instruction and curriculum delivery are most effective in a correctional education setting. Another recommendation was to determine what principles from adult learning are applicable in correctional education.
This study was designed to provide data for those two questions. This mixed methods, experimentally-designed study is framed in three research questions that are focused on gaining knowledge of the potential benefit of using trained peer tutors to supplement the instruction in adult basic education classes and General Education Development (GED) classes in a correctional environment. Theoretical applications are grounded in social learning theory and adult learning theories. Quantitative data were collected on academic performance, attendance, and perceived value and interest in education. Qualitative data supplemented and enhanced the quantitative data and provided an excellent insight into the thoughts of the tutors regarding their role in helping others.
Statistical significance was found with the aid of the tutors in the adult basic education classes in terms of academic performance, but not with the GED class. Principles of andragogical instruction were examined, discussed, and supported by all students. Expressions of tutor support and help were repeatedly presented as beneficial during interviews. Further questions about attendance were raised.