Not a day goes by without seeing peer-learning in action, be that young siblings sharing a new skill or fact with one-another, or teenagers discussing their own tips, pitfalls and experiences. The overwhelming sentiment that always jumps out at me, is how natural these exchanges of information and learning appear, often far more authentic than the rigid classroom environment.
And that’s not to say that this collaborative activity is averse to the four walls of the classroom — Far from it. Peer learning has a presence in every lesson that houses the whisper of one unsure student to another, or the constant hum of explanations, queries and workings out. Far from not constituting a proper education, or putting the students at risk of learning each other’s mistakes, this is a presence that should be celebrated.
Master the mutually beneficial
By entrusting your students to partake in the role-reversal of teaching, it is not just the recipient of this knowledge that will benefit. By playing ‘teacher’, the student will first have to ensure that they fully understand the work themselves, before they can begin to tackle the explanation to their peer.
As a language student, I remember countless times easily recalling certain rules, but when it came to explaining these to a friend in need, it took a step back from the textbook explanation and approaching the task from a new angle — only then is clarity achieved.
Similarly, the student on the receiving end benefits from this very change in perspective, providing additional layers of description, analysis and evaluation. On a level playing field, they may also be more willing to question their uncertainties and speak out in the safety of this partnership, more than they would do so in front of an entire class.
The value of self-evaluation
And that’s not even the best bit! By looking into how your peers best learn and process information, it’s easy to recognise your own strengths, struggles and progress, to continuously self-evaluate, reflect, and improve your own learning process.
Additionally, the ability to approach these situations with the humility, empathy, tact and respect that it takes, is paramount to the creation of well-rounded, young individuals, and with companies increasingly seeking these very soft skills, it’s never too late start integrating them in your classroom too.