Contrary to what is believed, peer to peer teaching is an age-old concept.
It can be traced back to Aristotle’s use of archons, or student leaders, and the letters of Seneca the Younger. It’s an effective teaching method that engages children and brings out their efficiency in a great way. Different techniques of learning can be used to facilitate and make a peer to peer learning environment into effect. These techniques can be in and out of the classroom, including peer tutoring, small and large groups for class discussion, and online discussion and feedback.
It does help in multiple learning aspects and cannot be defined in a single strategy. The technique extends to various activities and educators as well as students get to choose from an array of choices as per their likings as well as utility.
Stanford’s post on peer learning and its importance state that, “Researchers from the University of Ulster identified 10 different models of peer learning (Griffiths, Housten and Lazenbatt, 1995). These ranged from the traditional proctor model, in which senior students tutor junior students, to the more innovative learning cells, in which students in the same year form partnerships to assist each other with both course content and personal concerns. Other models involved discussion seminars, private study groups, parrainage (a buddy system) or counselling, peer-assessment schemes, collaborative project or laboratory work, projects in different sized (cascading) groups, workplace mentoring, and community activities. The term 'peer learning', however, remains abstract. The sense in which we use it here suggests a two-way, reciprocal learning activity. Peer learning should be mutually beneficial and involve the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and experience between the participants. It can be described as a way of moving beyond independent to interdependent or mutual learning (Boud, 1988).”
With peer to peer learning in action, students get to learn by explaining their ideas and active participation in multiple activities. Since they collaboratively learn from their peers, it enhances other crucial soft skills along with the knowledge of the curricula.
Mentioned below are some peer to peer learning practices that you can try in your classroom:
1. Senior to Junior
This practice would involve senior students teaching junior students. This can be done in two ways:
- The first case is where an older student from a higher grade level teaches a student from a lower grade level. Here, the senior student benefits from the practice by learning through teaching. They get to go through the topics and subjects they have already studied. Along with it, it also helps them work on their mentorship and leadership skills. Formally, this is called cross-age peer tutoring.
- The second case has to deal with the level of skills the students have. Here the senior student is the one with more skills who help the junior student who is less skilled but in the same class. In this scenario, one student is significantly more advanced than the other. This student acts as the ‘more knowledgeable other’, helping bring the other students up to their level. The more skilled student may benefit from this scenario by refining their knowledge and being able to apply it in their explanations.
2. Take Turns Teaching
Under this practice, students collectively teach and learn. Pairing mixed-ability students can enforce defined tutor and tutee roles, whereas having same-ability students work together adds variety to your peer teaching approach. Formally, this is called reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT). This practice was used in the Ohio University Study and yielded positive results as participants progressed through the content together.
Practicing this, students get turns teaching or they give feedback to each other. Since you won’t have to divide tutors and tutees, you’ll be able to share teaching strategies with the entire class.
3. Peer Study Groups
Remember the group study you used to do in school days. The activity is similar to that. These are also known as peer support groups or private study groups. Most of the time, they are organized by students themselves and don’t need the presence of an educator. They take place during free time, after school, or on weekends.
This practice can be beneficial for motivating students to start preparing for their exams or completing assignments due dates. If students study together, their peers can push them to do better, and collectively they come up with better ideas, support each other, and can help one another with their academic challenges.
4. Use Think-Pair-Share Activities
Think-pair-share exercises expose students to three lesson-processing experiences, allowing them to work individually and with a tutor or tutee. Practicing this activity, a pair of students are picked from the class. One of them is given the role of the tutor and the other the tutee. Students are further asked to think about a given topic or answer a specific question by themselves. This is followed by the result discussions and findings by the paired tutors and tutees.
Tutees focus on articulating and expanding their ideas, whereas tutors encourage their partners to do so while leading them to credible answers. Finally, have each pair share their thoughts with the rest of the class, and open the floor for questions.
Think-Pair-Share is easy to use within a planned lesson but is also an easy strategy to use for spur-of-the-moment discussions. These exercises vary in length, giving you flexibility when lesson planning. The practice would help students develop a conceptual understanding of a topic, develop the ability to filter information and draw conclusions, and develop the ability to consider other points of view.
5. The Jigsaw Method
This activity requires students to be divided into two groups. At first, each group focuses on a different aspect of a particular topic. Then students are shuffled and now both the groups have members from the other group. This ensures that each group has students with knowledge on different aspects of that topic. The groups then are presented with a task, knowing that they have peers with knowledge of both aspects, the activity becomes engaging and super fun for students.
You can engage your students in peer to peer learning in many ways. The practices mentioned above come from educators who have tried and tested these. While they do engage students and make learning fun for them, the technique also helps them in developing soft skills and healthy relationships with their peers.
In what ways do you facilitate peer to peer learning for your students? Share with us in the comments section below!