What is Peer Learning?
Peer learning is not a single, undifferentiated educational strategy. It encompasses a broad sweep of activities and an amalgamation of different learning strategies that we come across all the time.
From a formal context: Peer learning is an educational practice in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals. To an informal context relaxing the constraints, and positioning “peer-to-peer learning” as a mode of “learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything.”
Peer learning has a long history. It is possibly as old as any form of collaborative or
community action, and probably has always taken place, sometimes as a natural
process, sometimes by a deliberate effort to teach/learn in that manner.
And yet somehow through our traditional mass-manufactured education system, we have managed to undo all that and make “problem solving” a mundane task, that one is forced to perform.
On the other hand, computers have the opportunity to restructure the learning environment, but too often they are simply used to provide a digital version of a normal lesson or exam.
Although in the recent past, there has been a world-wide informal/formal push to “add-on” the strategies of “peer learning” with the mainstream traditional approach of learning. In an attempt to “enhance” the process of “learning”.
There are countless research papers indicating the effects of Peer Learning, to name them all here would take far more time than you or I have to spare.
Peer learning gives the learners considerably more practice than traditional teaching and learning methods in taking responsibility for their own learning and, more generally, learning how to learn.
These methods improve problem- solving strategies because the students are confronted with different interpretations of the given situation. The peer support system makes it possible for the learner to internalize both external knowledge and critical thinking skills and to convert them into tools for intellectual functioning.
Some forms of Peer learning are even said to be closely approximating Habermas’ notion of an ‘ideal speech act’ in which issues of power and domination are less prominent than when one party has a designated ‘teaching’ role and thus takes on a particular kind of authority for the duration of the activity.
When reciprocal peer learning was applied in an anatomy course at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. All of the students alternated between being the teacher and the learner. The students taught course content and explained procedures to their peers. After doing various reciprocal peer learning activities, they gave a debriefing questionnaire and the results were that 100% of the students increased their understanding of course content because they taught it and 97% agreed that it increased their retention of knowledge they taught to their peers. Also, 92% agreed that it improved their communication skills, which could then be used anywhere.
And that’s not just it, the list goes on.
- Peers gain a deeper understanding of what they teach to other peers, which benefits them as well as the peer they are helping, also incubating the habit of exchanging ideas.
- Peers feel more comfortable and would open up and interact more with other peers rather than teachers or staff.
- It creates greater confidence and independence in learning, deeper understanding and improved grades for both peer leaders and their students.
- Peers acquire certain organizational and planning skills because they work collaboratively with others, give and receive feedback, and evaluate their own learning.
- The benefits/effects of peer learning are not just limited to educational areas, but also sociological.
- Peer Learning boosts social skills, and the ability to collaborate, and exchange ideas, not just academically, but also emotionally.
- Peer tutoring is cost-effective, has a sound theoretical basis and has
demonstrated a positive impact on student learning
Peer learning can be practiced at every level, in schools, universities, work places, or independently.
Peer Learning in Corporate World.
Most of the corporations see Peer Learning as a cost-efficient and effective alternative to hiring alien resource-experts, and instead invest in facilitating Peer Learning, creating an interesting work experience. British Telecom, having adopted Peer Learning systems, saved $12,000,000 of benefits per annum from its peer-to-peer learning system in terms of cost savings and performance improvements.
On the other hand, employees benefit more with these strategies than the usual external experts or training days, A learner’s development is dependent on a willingness to make mistakes, challenge ideas, and speak up about concerns. Unlike some learning methods, like tests or exams, or high-pressure demonstrations of skills, peer-to-peer learning creates a space where the learner can feel safe taking these risks without a sense that their boss is evaluating their performance while they are learning. You’re more likely to have candid conversations about areas you need to develop with a peer than with someone who has power over your career and income. In peer-to-peer learning, the dynamics of hierarchy disappear.
A secondary benefit of peer-to-peer learning is that the format itself helps employees develop management and leadership skills. Group reflection conversations help employees master the difficult skills of giving and accepting honest, constructive feedback. Because feedback flows in both directions, participants in peer-to-peer learning tend to put more time and energy into making sure the feedback they provide is meaningful.
Some research even goes on to say, that Peer Learning is not just an “add-on” to enhance the learning process, but is “necessary for optimal active learning” and is “essential to growing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
hyperlog.club is a community of programmers who help each other in learning new technologies. We are currently working on a product that sets a clear path with aggregation of multiple free tutorials available around the web to learn a specific technology while cultivating the practice of Peer Learning. And the best part is we are completely open-source and free. So everyone is welcome to join in with our initiative and contribute to the library of tutorials.