Peer-Assisted Learning


Peer learning or peer instruction may be defined as students “learning from and with each other in ways which are mutually beneficial and involve sharing knowledge, experience and ideas between participants” (Boud, 2008, as cited by Boud, 2002). Peer learning typically works best when students are well-prepared in advance (e.g., read and analyzed a chapter or readings) and are held accountable by the instructor.

Practical Applications

Below are some possible types of group configurations that enable the best of peer-assisted learning:

  1. ​“Buzz Groups: A large group of students is subdivided into smaller groups of 4–5 students to consider the issues surrounding a problem. After about 20 minutes of discussion, one member of each sub-group presents the findings of the sub-group to the whole group.
  2. Affinity Groups: Groups of 4–5 students are each assigned particular tasks to work on outside of formal contact time. At the next formal meeting with the teacher, the sub-group, or a group representative, presents the sub-group’s findings to the whole group.
  3. Solution and Critic Groups: One sub-group is assigned a discussion topic and the other groups constitute ‘critics’ who observe, offer comments and evaluate the sub-group’s presentation.
  4. ‘Teach-Write-Discuss’: At the end of a unit of instruction, students have to answer short questions and justify their answers. After working on the questions individually, students compare their answers with each other. A whole-class discussion subsequently ensues examining the array of answers presented” (Christudason, 2003, p. 1).

Other Examples of Peer Learning
    • ​​Think-Pair-Share (students first ponder a question and prepare an answer individually, then pair with a partner to share and exchange ideas, and third, one member of the pair shares their collective answer with the class)
    • The Learning Cell (students work in pairs and alternate asking questions about class content to each other)
    • Jigsaw Classroom (see also Cooperative Learning)
    • Team-Based Learning (see also Cooperative Learning)

Recommended Resources

Related Texts

  • ​Boud, D., Cohen, R., & Sampson, J. (2001) Peer Learning in Higher Education: Learning from and with Each Other. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Ender, S., & Newton, Fred (2000). Students Helping Students: A Guide for Peer Educators on College Campuses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Mazur, E (1997) Peer Instruction: A User's Manual. Des Moines, IA: Prentiss-Hall.

​Related Evaluation and Assessment Resources