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Peer Learning: The Best Hack for Ultimate College Success and Beyond

Written by Andrew on February 19, 2018

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Peer learning can improve your child’s college experience and set them up for future success. Research conducted by Gallup-Purdue demonstrated a surprising and significant detail. Students who worked together as peer tutors, mentors, or in peer study groups gained more from their university experiences.

If you want to see your child flourish after graduation, suggest they find a peer tutor and become a peer teacher themselves.

Peer to peer teaching

Peers have been helping colleagues or friends increase their grades and their level of understanding since Aristotle. I am sure you remember a classmate who had a knack for a subject. Or you may remember teaching a friend. That is peer to peer teaching. “Peer teaching is a method by which one student instructs another student in material on which the first is an expert and the second is a novice.”

Peer learning participants “are not merely teachers or learners, but are actually co-creating the learning context as a whole,” writes Charles Danoff. The peer learner/teacher context creates a more social safe place to share critiques, exchange ideas, and evolve into growth mindset. In simple terms, it is more comfortable and social to learn with a friend.

Better Student Performance

Several studies demonstrate higher test marks among students engaged in peer tutorial, in a wide variety of age ranges. One study reported that “participants showed higher academic achievement on unit tests, rated themselves as more satisfied with the class, were better adjusted psycho-socially, and frequently used their partner as a supportive resource in the course.”

By its nature, peer learning is active. Students respond to each other more socially, supportively, and collaboratively when learning together. The result is more stimulating for all the participants. Leif Bryngfors, head of the SI Centre at the Faculty of Engineering summarizes, “Students can achieve more than they think…They don’t have to worry about their performance being assessed, because there is no lecturer present; rather they can reflect on their own learning on their own terms. This ‘silent knowledge’ also strengthens students’ self-confidence.” Benefits of peer tutoring include a balance between grades, growth mindset, and social development.

Social Well-being

Peer to peer learning strengthens bonds between students and builds friendships around shared experiences. Students feel comfortable learning with a classmate or a friend of similar age and relatable experiences. Studies show peer to peer tutorial improves friendship bonds, team building, and collaboration skills. “Peeragogy suggests a broader view on thinking aloud: instead of traditional didactics, in a peer-based context, speech flows in a network, and thinking is done in an inherently social way.” The results allow students to feel more connected with their own agency and an increased sense of responsibility. Peer learning creates a support system. The students work together in cooperation to mentor each other. The relationship is an important process for learning how to network and build subject competency and self-direction.

Immediately Accessible

Peer learning is also more accessible to the student. Professors are often not available when a point of critical learning is present. Learning with peer tutors helps when the need is high and pressing. The Motee platform for university students works to create a tool to connect learners with one-on-one tutors at the point when some sort of obstacle arises. “It’s like asking to borrow a pen,” says founder Erika Williamson. “Seeing who is in your chemistry class or who had the course a semester before saves time. You don’t get side-tracked endlessly searching Google for a similar problem. It’s just boom – that person can help right now.”

Why should parents encourage their child to employ peer learning in college?

College is a challenge. Overcoming challenges requires a growth mindset. For most students college is the first time they are away and on their own. Encourage your child to find a peer tutor or become a peer tutor. It can create career experience, form strong social bonds that empower the students, and build role models and support structures that help your child succeed in life.

For more on the benefits of collaboration and surrounding yourself with positive people, read Ali In Bloom’s tips for surviving college.