Blog Post

#dojochatEU: Peer learning

Every week I take the questions from ClassDojo’s weekly chat on Twitter, #dojochatEU. This week’s topic was Peer Learning. Let’s go through the questions and if you can, tune into the Twitter chat every Wednesday from 8:30pm.

Q1. What does peer learning mean to you?

Simply put, I think it means learning through your classmates and teacher rather than the teacher alone. The days of the teacher being the fountain of knowledge are coming to an end (hopefully) and we are entering a time where our pupils can not only learn from their teacher but from each other. A teacher in this new role becomes a facilitator: questioning, challenging, scaffolding and so on.

Q2. The Sutton Trust report published in 2011 concluded that peer-learning was more effective at improving learning than one-to-one tutoring or smaller class sizes. Do you agree?

I haven’t come across this report but I love the findings! A big bug bear of mine is the misnomer that class size is the biggest obstacle to learning in a classroom. It’s great to see another report proving it not to be the case. We all have something to learn from each other so the report makes a lot of sense. Peer-learning follows the adage of the wisdom of the village where everyone brings something to the table in terms of learning.

Q3. Are there times when teacher-led learning is more effective than peer-learning?

Of course there are. Using only one methodology is never a good idea. There are times when the teacher needs to do direct teaching.

Q4. Share some strategies that you use in your classroom to promote peer-learning.

Strategies, for me, are as simple as finding the right questions at the right time. To start with, we need a problem that we all need to solve or a task we all need to complete. For example, we might all decide that we’re going to find out as much as we can about dolphins. This will involve the pupils finding out different bits of information and my job is to give them the required tools. Books, internet tools and so on can help but trying to get the children to ask the right questions and perhaps make hypotheses are also good tools. They may find an expert on dolphins from their own community or through an external source.

Q5. Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn – Benjamin Franklin. Discuss.

I always look on these quotes with an air of scepticism. Firstly, I’m sceptical that the person who it is attributed to, even said it (but that’s not relevant to this discussion) and secondly, I think these things sound very enlightening at first but are flawed. I think all 3 (telling, teaching and involving) can help a child to learn depending on their learning style. My preference is the latter but it might not be for others.

Q6. Can technology aid peer learning?

Yes. Technology can help with ALL learning! However, by using technology, one can find lots more peers to learn from. In a classroom (an Irish one at least) you only have a maximum of about 35 people in a room. However, technology gives you access to millions of people to learn from!

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