Many institutions of learning now promote instructional methods involving ‘active' learning that present opportunities for students to formulate their own questions, discuss issues, explain their viewpoints, and engage in cooperative learning by working in teams on problems and projects. "Peer learning' is a form of cooperative learning that enhances the value of student-student interaction and results in various advantageous learning outcomes.
To realize the benefits of peer learning, teachers must provide ‘intellectual scaffolding'. Thus, teachers prime students by selecting discussion topics that all students are likely to have some relevant knowledge of; they also raise questions/issues that prompt students towards more sophisticated levels of thinking. In addition, collaborative processes are devised to get all group members to participate meaningfully.
Peer Learning Strategies
To facilitate successful peer learning, teachers may choose from an array of strategies:
Buzz Groups: A large group of students is subdivided into smaller groups of 4 5 students to consider the issues surrounding a problem. After about 20 minutes of discussion, one member of each subgroup presents the findings of the subgroup to the whole group.
Affinity Groups: Groups of 4 5 students are each assigned particular tasks to work on outside of formal contact time. At the next formal meeting with the teacher, the sub-group, or a group representative, presents the sub-group's findings to the whole tutorial group.
Solution and Critic Groups: One sub-group is assigned a discussion topic for a tutorial and the other groups constitute ‘critics' who observe, offer comments and evaluate the sub-group's presentation.
‘Teach-Write-Discuss': At the end of a unit of instruction, students have to answer short questions and justify their answers. After working on the questions individually, students compare their answers with each other's. A whole-class discussion subsequently examines the array of answers that still seem justifiable and the reasons for their validity.
Critique sessions, role-play, debates, case studies and integrated projects are other exciting and effective teaching strategies that stir students' enthusiasm and encourage peer learning. Students thus have diverse opportunities to experience in a reasonably ‘safe' and unconstrained context (while perhaps being evaluated by another group and/or the teacher), reactions to complex and ‘real' problems they may face later in their careers.
Learn more about Peer to peer learning at http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/success/sl37.htm
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