How to use peer learning in your training?
This article is written for professors, facilitators, trainers, event organizers, who want to innovate in their training or event. As a pedagogic team, we have successfully transformed 238 trainings and events in a peer learning way using our own method in 3 years.
In our training, the learning content gets created entirely by the participants in 2–3 hours. Imagine a hackathon about producing knowledge together, and the impact of production happens instantly: everybody can learn from all the knowledge created.
Why do we want to train differently?
“Argh ! They are 60 this year! I will lose them, that’s for sure! I am going to gesticulate miserably, lost at the middle of the room…. and anyway, it doesn’t make sense to be the only one to teach while everyone is on Facebook. This must change! “
For countless times in the training we have delivered, we felt that we are not capturing participants full attention; we spend too much time preparing content that participants do not care about; we repeat the same content over years, and we lose the enthusiasm; we are asking questions and no one answers…
All these experiences have driven us to explore the best group learning formats around the world, reflect, experiment, and finally, to develop our own training methodology. In 3 years’ time, we have successfully transformed 238 trainings and events in a bottom/up way using our own method. You can call it peer learning, social learning, blended learning, collective intelligence… But in simple words :
We create a learning experience where qualitative learning content is created, entirely by the participants, in 2–3 hours.
The 3 essential ingredients: A new System, a verified Method, and some Technology.
Implement a new system in your training
- Put the participants at the center of your training. Dividing the big group into small groups, and put the groups in the position of the teachers. Let the interactions among participants play the role of knowledge transfer. All participants are equal on the right to bring content to the group.
- Put yourself as a facilitator and resource person. Your role is to let everyone share their knowledge, leading the process, and provide content when participants ask for it.
Use a verified 6-step method to lead your training
0. Warm-up: Inspire your group
Use video, lightening speeches, vivid real examples related to the training topic, successful initiatives, to open up your participants’ mind, give motivations and inspirations. This part should be short and efficient less than 30 min.
1. Mix your participants in small groups
Put your participants in small groups under 6. Consider experience, age, culture background, organization background, gender, all these varieties when mixing your participants. Exposing participants to diverse points of view and different profiles helps to reduce the groupthink* phenomenon and put collective intelligence at work. Mixed groups also creates a natural exchange.
*Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.
2. Share around questions and post (Here comes the technology)
Now that mixed groups are formed, start your training by asking questions and make them answer inside their groups. Sharing is always inside small groups of 3–6. This group size makes a safe space where people don’t risk being judged or criticised for their answer, thus the sharing happens easy and fluid.
In a successful session about “Engage collaborators” , we used this question: A moment lived in your career where you felt a strong commitment of employees? What makes it particularly successful? What skill, approach, method did you use?
During our sessions, participants post their individual answers in short key sentences on our platform. The platform is accessible by smartphone or laptop with a web link (wap.live) and a simple code. After they publish, they can instantly see the list of all the answers in this session.
Examples of posts from the session “Engage collaborators”
3. Create thematic groups by matching
Once all participants have shared their answers, our platform clusters the participants into thematic groups using a semantic algorithm, which captures the similar keywords and similar tags in their answers. With thematic groups, participants are ready for the co-creation of knowledge in the next steps.
The process can be done by the platform in less than one second, but facilitators can always adjust and refine the group result by hand.
Example of group result
Matching can be done based on multiple criteria, according to the question asked in the previous step.
>Match by career orientation
>Match by role/ domains of experience
>Match by learning objectives
Ultimately, the step of matching aims to form groups around common topics that group members all feel connected to. This feeling of alignment is indispensable for meaningful and engaging content production, which will be introduced in the next step.
4. Create collaborative content online
Once participants sit together with their matched group, they can start to create contents together.In each group, we assign a leader, an app master, a time master. A template of production is put on the platform. The template gives the structure of the production. Often, we add specific examples on the template to show participants what is expected at the end.
Example of a template we use for our session
Now with the laptop, the app master in each group formulates all the sharing and fill in the template.
This step can be lasting 30 min — 90 min. Thanks to the template, the productions of all groups are uniform, each group publishes an equal part of the content and is structured in a similar way. At the end of this step, all productions from groups are put in one clean and beautiful page, accessible for all to explore, demonstrate, revisit, modify, comment. Highlighting everyone’s contribution provides motivation to contribute and share even more.
5. Mutual teaching
Mutual teaching is the time for each group to demonstrate what they have produced. We call this kind of demonstration a mini “class”, participants become teachers and students in turn.
In mutual teaching, not only the “students” can learn, the “teachers”can also gain insights from interactions with his or her audience to complete their creation, taking inspirations, new questions, new knowledge into their production.
In ideal setup with enough time and separated spaces, we use “Sign up” function on our platform for the participants to freely choose which “class” they want to attend, to make sure every participant can get the most relevant information for herself/himself.
Giving live feedback is part of “WAP culture”.
A> Feedback on each other’s creation
Example of feedback given by participants during the session. It is a motivation engine to let people feel proud of what they did during the session.
- very good group, a lot of energy and passion. I learned a lot of things …
- very good to assimilate all the figures. Very passionate so it was very appreciable to listen to them. I learned a lot of things about this practices…
B> Feedback on the whole learning experience
We made it a rule to let learners give real time feedback about how the session went, anonymously. Feedbacks empower participants to share their honest thoughts about the pedagogy, and are gold for facilitators to learn and grow.
Try it in your own training or program with us
This article is written by WAP- We Are Peers. We Are Peers creates a platform for trainers and professors to use peer learning easily inside classrooms/training rooms.
Feedback from one of our user
“It was really good. I think this approach really enables to engage students. It makes group work, research work on computers, restitution, etc easier. Very used to explore new topics, when students have experienced the topic or there is abundant literature and a level accessible on the Internet. Presence of a facilitator is needed, to correct, complete or guide.“