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Peer learning

Peer learning

Peer learning is an educational practice in which trainees interact with each other to attain educational goals. It may be self organised (see, for example, the peerogogy handbook and also the related method - community of practice), or it may be incorporated into formal learning (see Eric Mazur's peer instruction website). There is evidence that peer learning can enhance conceptual understanding compared with classical lectures.

You will need

Essential

Your 'toolkit' for peer learning depends on the context in which you plan to implement it. If you are incorporating it into a formal learning setting, you'll need to develop a question or a set of questions or challenges to pose to your trainees. If you are setting up a community of practice outside of a formal learning setting, see the related method on communities of practice for guidance. Similarly, if it is being used within an employment setting, a facilitator (e.g. from HR) will be needed to select appropriate peers and set objectives, roles and general rules.

Benefits and limitations

Benefits

  • There's evidence that peer learning improves transformation of learning into working practice 
  • Peer learning is suitable for senior professionals who may not take kindly to a classroom setting

Limitations

  • Students learn at different speeds
  • One student may dominate others in the group
  • Ensuring all students participate equally 

What do I actually do as an instructor/facilitator?

Preparation / before class

Develop a question, challenge or goal to pose to your trainees.

Implementation / during class

Within a formal learning setting, different strategies can be used to initiate the peer learning including critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and projects. Outside a formal classroom setting, organise how the peer group will get together on a regular basis (can be physically or on-line) and the mechanism to initiate the learning (e.g. set the challenge through a case study, research project etc.). For peer learning that takes place over a period of time, consider how to maintain the momentum. For both, determine how the results of the learning will be reported back (reports, presentations etc.) so that you know that the intended learning has taken place.

There are no use cases available for "Peer learning".

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Peer-reviewed publications

List of publications from the Mazur lab on his application of 'peer instruction

O'Donnell, A. M; A. King (1999). Cognitive perspectives on peer learning. Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 0805824480

Method effectiveness

Literature review of self-organised peer learning 

Examples and materials

Peerology handbook

ConCeptests (requires registration but this is free)

Other

Wikipedia entry

Peer learning for computer science

Eric Mazur's peer instruction website

Image credits/copyright

Reproduced with permission from Novartis Pharma AG

Similar Methods

Community of practice

Community of practice

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a profession (or craft). The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to the field of common interest. Through sharing information and experiences with the group, members learn from each other and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. CoPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunch group at work. This type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling.

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