In traditional education settings, teachers were the main sources of information in the classroom. Learning was very much teacher-centred in which teachers actively imparted their knowledge while students passively tried to absorb and regurgitate. Thankfully, over time we started to realise that this teacher-centred approach was not fulfilling our students' learning needs.Not only were we stifling creativity and innovation, we were also robbing our students of the meaningful learning that occurs through the act of teaching. Thus, 21st century education saw the mass adoption of student-centredness and constructivism. These schools of thought emphasise that for learning to occur, students need to be actively involved and engaged in the entire teaching and learning process in which they interchange roles between teacher and student.
And if we’re talking about students' active involvement and engagement, then we must appreciate the important role that peer-learning plays. Peer learning purports that learning is a social endeavour and is rooted in student-centredness and constructivism.
Peer learning occurs when students interact with one another and work together towards achieving learning objectives. During peer-learning, students exchange the roles of teacher and student as they try to solve problems and make sense of information. Renowned organisations such as the International Reading Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics have all recognised peer learning as a major facilitator of the teaching and learning process.
Many times, peer learning is reserved for non-academic activities or for one-off group projects. However, when we deliberately incorporate peer-learning techniques in our lessons, we may actually increase academic achievement. When students work in small groups, students get to express themselves much more naturally than they would with their teachers. No matter how comfortable students may be with their teachers, students and teachers do not speak the same language. The ease of communication created through peer learning allows students to explore concepts more deeply as they engage in dialogue with their peers that they all understand. During peer-learning, teachers become “the guide on the side” and not “the sage on the stage”. As students engage one another and switch roles of teacher and student in their small groups, learning becomes much more meaningful to them.
In an increasingly technological and multicultural society, peer learning prepares students for their adult lives in the real world. After their formal-schooling years, students will need to properly function in the workplace and many different types of communities. Peer learning provides formative experiences that equip students with necessary traits and skills, such as confidence, empathy and interpersonal skills, that they need to thrive in the real multicultural world. When students get to teach and learn from one another, their appreciation for teamwork grows and they recognise the great need for collaborative efforts towards achieving common goals. With guidance, students are encouraged to engage in healthy discourse and debates when they have different perspectives. Thus, students are able to value others’ opinions and welcome diversity as they explore concepts together.
We understand the importance and relevance of peer learning in the holistic development of our children. Now what can we do to provide opportunities for our children to engage in peer learning as we prepare them for a hybrid world of work? Well, we should be trying to give students both physical and virtual learning experiences. We can start by choosing virtual small group classes for additional academic support instead of traditional physical extra lessons. Even if you think your child needs individual attention, you should speak to his/her educator about creating a plan to get him/her in a comfortable position to thrive in a small group setting. There are many options available for virtual group classes that are worth your research and a simple google search will help you with such.
If you are unsure about virtual small group classes, I encourage you to register for our free demo classes. You and your child can both sit in on these classes so that you have an idea of how sessions are conducted and you can make an informed decision about if they are right for you.
Use this link to register for T. Garcia Education Free Demo Sessions: