Being a life-long learner and having studied for over two decades, I have tried different learning techniques to make my learning effective. One of them is called peer teaching and the first time I experienced it was during my high school years. This science-backed technique doesn’t only reinforce the knowledge by teaching, it also helps promote self-confidence and communication skills, just to name a couple of benefits.
What is peer teaching?
Peer teaching is an approach where one student teaches another. This is not simply repeating what is in the textbook to another student, it requires understanding the knowledge thoroughly, organize it, doing extra research and find the best way to share what one has learnt. It is an effective learning technique because of a psychological phenomenon called the protégé effect. It was discovered by the great Roman philosopher Seneca and it means “while we teach, we learn”. There are different approaches: same-age peer teaching, cross-age peer teaching, reciprocal peer teaching and class-wide peer teaching, etc. No matter which approach is used, students can get great benefits from it.
It’s not possible to help another student grasp a new concept if the peer teacher doesn’t understand it him- or herself. To do that, the peer teacher must first understand the basics, review, and organise what he or she has learnt, find ways to share the knowledge effectively with another student. During the process, the peer teacher forges deeper learning. It is more engaging than passive learning where students receiving knowledge through lectures and assigned readings.
Peer teaching can increase students’ attention due to the interactive nature of peer teaching. Unlike the traditional classroom lessons where learning is unidirectional, students have the chance to play an active role in the classroom and have an impact on the lesson content, mode of delivery, materials used and so on. All these required preparation and active participation and hence, increase attention and engagement.
Develop cognitive empathy
Different students have different strengths and weaknesses. By teaching another student, the peer teacher has the chance to experience that first handed. For example, if the student looks frustrated and confused during the lesson, the peer teacher needs to try to look at it from the student’s perspective, practice imagining what is like to be in the same situation and find a solution. Cognitive empathy can’t be taught in traditional classroom learning, one must learn that through experience.
A lot of students think school is boring. Peer teaching puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them a chance to make a difference. To avoid giving a boring lesson, the peer teacher has to be creative and come up with different ways to engage with the students. For instance, he or she can incorporate learning games into the lesson, hold a competition, use role play and so on to make learning fun.
Teaching can give a sense of authority as the peer teacher shows the peer students something that they don’t know. This sense of authority isn’t fake, it comes from days or even weeks of learning and research. If the peer teacher is doing class-wide teaching, speaking to a big audience might sound intimidating at first but once he or she gets used to it, it’s a great opportunity to practice public speaking and improve self-confidence.
To teach is to learn twice – that’s why peer teaching is so effective for improving academic performance. In addition to that, one can practice skills that cannot be learnt from textbooks and exams. Peer teaching by no way can replace the traditional ways of learning but it is a great complement. Lernip’s project pod adopts the peer teaching technique to help our learners deepen their knowledge, spark their curiosity and creativity. Through investigation, research and collaboration, our participants learn from each other and have fun at the same time. Learning doesn’t have to feel like a chore, it can be something that all kids look forward to.