How did Peer to Peer learning come about?

The concept was initially introduced by British educators Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster in the late 18th century. They saw it as a quick and cost-effective solution to enhance literacy, especially considering the shortage of teachers for widespread education. For both Bell and Lancaster, the school system operated like this: initially, teachers instructed older students and evaluated their understanding, and then these students, having received guidance from the teacher, would teach their younger peers.

By the early 19th century, this approach gained popularity in Great Britain, France, Denmark, the USA, and other nations. Schools following the Bell and Lancaster method were primarily designed for the most economically disadvantaged, providing them with the only opportunity for any form of education.

Benefits of Peer Training

The peer learning methodology brings several advantages, including creating a more trusting educational environment, boosting motivation, and fostering horizontal connections and interactions.

Peer-to-peer learning cultivates critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and metacognition skills.

💡 This was affirmed by a study involving 39 students in the Introduction to Teaching course. They were tasked with preparing and conducting lessons for their peers. The students exhibited elements of metacognitive skills as they reflected on their learning strategies while observing others in the learning process.

Peer teaching ensures a deeper level of learning.

💡 Research supports the idea that teaching a concept to someone else, and sharing knowledge with fellow students is beneficial. It compels individuals to revisit previously learned concepts, strengthening neural connections and enhancing understanding and retention of the topic.

The peer-to-peer training approach can positively impact the motivation of participants in the educational process.

💡 For instance, a study from Michigan State University (USA) revealed that student performance tends to be higher when the benefits of studying a topic are discussed by classmates rather than teachers.

The peer to peer learning approach transforms students from passive listeners to active participants.

💡 Research indicates that individuals actively engaged in the learning process are one and a half times more likely to successfully complete their studies and pass exams compared to those who simply consume content.

​​Disadvantages of Peer to Peer Learning

Despite its numerous advantages, peer based learning comes with its own set of drawbacks. Firstly, there's the issue of participants' inexperience in such training. Lack of experience may lead to overly confusing instructions and feedback that is unclear.

The second point worth considering is the participant's attitude towards the process. A professional teacher or coach is unlikely to abandon a program halfway; they're committed to guiding their students to a logical conclusion. In programs where training is conducted solely on equal terms, there's no guarantee that participants will see it through to the end and achieve the desired results.

This brings us to the third disadvantage of peer to peer education: the educational process lacks complete control, and outcomes may be unexpectedly varied.

Moreover, disadvantages include the notion that employing the 'peer-to-peer' format might create the illusion for the teacher that designing the training is unnecessary, shifting all responsibility onto the participants in the educational process.

Principles of Peer to Peer Teaching

Researchers have identified several scenarios where mutual learning in education can be implemented. These include:

  1. Experienced Student Teaching. This is the most common type of peer to peer training, where a more experienced student takes on the role of teaching a less experienced one. For instance, high school students may lead classes for younger children, or a seasoned employee might mentor a less qualified colleague.
  2. Discussion Seminars. These seminars involve students or colleagues discussing the knowledge they've acquired. Participants exchange opinions, clarify aspects of the topic, and share additional information they've discovered.
  3. Study Support Groups. In this learning format, students gather to study or prepare for exams collectively. They exchange ideas, discuss various topics, and support one another.
  4. Feedback Sessions. Students assess each other's work, offering constructive feedback. This method helps individuals understand how others approach tasks, analyze different cognitive and learning strategies, and develop effective communication skills. It is commonly used in schools, universities, and corporate settings.
  5. Joint Projects. Students collaborate on projects, either in groups or pairs, to solve problems collectively.
  6. Budding System. Also known as the 'buddy' system, where two students team up to provide mutual support, exchange information, and share successes and insights. The term 'buddy' is derived from the word, signifying a supportive friend.

Difference between Peer to Peer Learning and Peer to Peer Training

Peer-to-peer learning emphasizes collaborative knowledge sharing among peers, focusing on a broader exchange of insights, experiences, and expertise within a group. It is often informal and driven by the collective wisdom of individuals.

On the other hand, peer-to-peer training is a more structured approach involving the transfer of specific skills or knowledge from one peer to another with a clear instructional goal. It typically follows a formal curriculum or training plan and may involve a designated trainer guiding their peers.