How does Peer Learning work?

  • Peer Learning facilitators use small group/pair work to encourage students to verbalize and expand on their thinking and to share it with the larger class.
  • During sessions, facilitators pose challenging questions to connect course concepts, encourage students to consult their notes or textbooks for clarification, redirect questions back to the group, model study skills, and provide opportunities for students to share study strategies, predict exam questions, and prepare answers to questions from lectures.
  • Peer Learning is multi-sensory; students hear, see, say, and do the content of the course, which helps embed the course material in long-term memory.

Why participate in Peer Learning sessions?

  • Participating in Peer Learning is an opportunity to practice working through the material to gain understanding, all in a relaxed and supportive environment.
  • Research shows that students who attend Peer Learning sessions 10 or more times outperform those who do not attend or attend fewer sessions.
  • Learning theory suggests that students who collaborate with their peers and take an active approach to their learning not only earn higher grades, but also have a stronger ground up understanding of course material (Arendale, 2005).

What are Peer Learning Facilitators good at?

  • Creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere where it's safe to make mistakes
  • Planning sessions around specific learning objectives with a warm-up, main activity, and wrap-up 
  • Grouping: Use a combination of alone time and small group time - for students to figure out what they don't know 
  • Redirecting questions back to students in ways that are supportive but where students do the talking/thinking aloud
  • Weaving frequent review of concepts into the session

More information about Peer Learning - by Dr. David Arendale, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota