Thursday, January 30, 2014


Peer Learning- We're better together

One of the first things I learned when I started teaching English was the importance of pair work. This guest post makes some suggestion on when to embrace learners working together, and why it is best to not rely on it constantly.

Helping someone is a way to cement your own knowledge
Have you ever witnessed one student leaning over to lend some help another student better understand a problem or dilemma? 
If so, you have likely seen peer learning. When students get together to help one another learn a difficult subject or think critically about a problem, they take their education to a deeper level opening their minds to a new thought process. This new level of learning can help peers open up their minds and encourage them to work well with other students, regardless of which side of the learning curve they are on.
Yet there are some struggles that come along with peer to peer learning that can make this typically highly effective way of learning a challenge. The following are some of the do’s and don’ts for teachers to help encourage peer learning in the right way.

The Do’s of Peer Learning
Learning to work together is a lifelong skill!
  • Do encourage teamwork –
    Teamwork is something that people experience throughout their lives. In some cases they will be the leader in the group, or in the case of peer learning the person doing the teaching. In other cases, they will be the person sitting back taking instruction, or the student. In either case, knowing how to work well with one another is a crucial. When you allow peer learning in the classroom you not only help students learn the material but you set them up for an important inherent life lesson that they will need in a variety of situations.
  • Do allow students to work together on problems –
    Sometimes there will not be a clear leader in a peer learning. When students come together in peer groups to brainstorm solutions to problems, they can work together equally to come up with the best solution. This teamwork is another common occurrence in daily life even after students are finished with their schooling.
  • Do let peers assess each other’s achievements –
    Another form of peer learning is to grade each other’s work. This is beneficial because it allows students to see and learn from the mistakes other students made as well as how they were able to solve certain problems. By doing this, they learn what their peers are doing and can find new ways to conquer challenges that they may not have learned about before. When they learn from like-minded individuals on how they solve problems, then they are able to use these skills in other situations to advance their education even further.
The Don’ts of Peer Learning
Working together is great, but the teacher should still be a part of the class
  • Don’t allow bullying –
    In some cases peer learning can lead to one person bullying another. This typically happens when one student is struggling with a particular subject and is being tutored by a peer who is better able to grasp it. When one student becomes frustrated with the other, they can begin to bully the student which can have adverse effects. As a teacher, it is important to watch for these signs and stop the peer learning before it gets worse.
  • Don’t rely solely on peer learning –
    Teachers sometimes rely too heavily on peer learning and step back from their role as administrator of the classroom. This can also have adverse effects because students will not receive knowledge from the teacher that they need to get the most out of their education. A good balance is imperative with peer learning and classroom learning with a teacher.
As a teacher, finding a way to incorporate peer learning into the classroom is a good way to mix up the curriculum and teaching methods so students can work together more and enjoy their classroom time. To do this most effectively it is important to balance between lectures and one-on-one lessons with a teacher and work in peer groups. 

This guest post was written by Aileen Pablo who actively blogs about education. She uses research from:

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