4 Ways Peer Teaching Can Benefit Your Students
“We learn a great deal more when we teach something, than when we read about it.” Edgar Dale, American Educationalist
The best way to consolidate your understanding is by teaching someone else – this is a proposition that has regularly been echoed by educationalists around the world and many teachers apply this principle in their classrooms regularly.
Below are the 4 ways I’ve seen peer teaching benefit students.
1. Peer Teaching helps students to better understand the work
The most obvious benefit of peer teaching is that it helps students who are struggling with some concepts to gain understanding. In a classroom where peer teaching is encouraged and where a student has a question (but the teacher is busy) he/she asks a neighbouring student for clarification. Very simple, very organic. And when both students are stuck they ask the teacher.
2. Peer Teaching helps students catch-up on lessons they have missed
I vividly recall teaching a Year 9 Trigonometry unit, where one student had been absent from the several introductory lessons. Being Trigonometry, the concepts being taught were unlike anything he had seen previously. I therefore gladly accepted when his friend - a student who regularly topped the class - offered to teach him what he'd missed.
By the end of one lesson, I was somewhat astonished to find that the student had caught up on all the missed work. He then proceeded to work hard, and performed similarly to his usual assessment scores relative to the other students.
A related strategy, Peer Teaching In Teams Of Three, can be an exceptional way to revise a unit or section of work. The Peer Teaching In Teams Of Three strategy is highly engaging, incorporates competition while building student agency and leadership. The strategy is explained in detail in this free tutorial.
3. Peer Teaching improves student engagement
Students are naturally drawn to collaborate and help each other. Therefore, harnessing this instinct by encouraging organic, natural peer teaching - unsurprisingly - creates a more engaged learning environment.
4. Peer Teaching consolidates understanding in the peer teacher
As has already been suggested, peer teaching is not all about the student who is learning. Explaining a concept to another peer is one of the best ways to ensure that a student has complete understanding of the concepts involved. It enables them to not only relay their understanding using their own words, but to also apply this knowledge to other contexts if their peer asks questions.
Natural, organic peer teaching is something that will occur spontaneously if you allow it to happen. However, this is not to say you can’t promote organic peer teaching, and make sure that it is structured and productive. This can be done by planning for organic peer-teaching in your lessons; explaining to students what good peer-teaching looks like; and praising students who demonstrate exemplary peer teaching/peer learning behaviour.
Call to Action
Do you use peer teaching? If yes, is it of a form similar to the above, or is it more structured? If not, are you tempted to start implementing peer teaching in your classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Otherwise, if you’re interested in reading the original article of mine this is based on, have a read here.
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