4 Powerful Peer Assisted Learning Strategies


Peer learning involves students teaching one another as part of an interactive, collaborative learning process. This helps reinforce students’ understanding of curriculum content while teaching them how to work cooperatively as well as communicate effectively among themselves.

Teachers can implement various peer-assisted learning strategies in their classrooms. Here are five of the most widely-used ones:

Dialogue Groups

Dialog is an engaging learning strategy that gives students an opportunity to communicate on topics of mutual interest with one another and build empathy through shared experiences, which ultimately results in more constructive and cooperative relationships. At Karuna programs, dialogue is taught as part of their core curriculum.

To maximize discussion, have students prepare before class by assigning roles to small groups. Each member should have at least two minutes to present his or her ideas – this enables everyone in the group to participate while preventing dominant personalities from taking over and helping reduce anxiety about speaking in front of classmates. Ask your students to use different strategies when assigning roles, such as placing people with different strengths (e.g., writers and engineers) together or posting color-coded Post-it notes or place cards with color codes for assigning roles; you could even let them pick their parts!

Discussion should aim to reach a consensus, so all voices must be heard and understood by all participants. To prevent students from speaking past each other when discussing their views, encourage them to cite evidence or personal experience as part of their arguments and highlight concepts they’ve changed their minds on as a result of the dialogue.

Facilitators play an essential role in keeping discussions civil by setting rules or regulations of engagement that help participants maintain civility during conversations. Furthermore, facilitators may establish a code of conduct to prevent derogatory, intimidating, or hostile language from emerging during dialogues.

Discussion Groups

Discussion groups provide students with a great way to participate in collaborative learning activities. The process may occur either synchronously (in real-time) or asynchronously, with students communicating over chat or text-based platforms or small groups meeting together informally to talk or work through written assignments together. Either way, group members help each other understand the material discussed; this also gives students the chance to practice listening skills as conversations progress further and help refine writing abilities over time.

Instructors can utilize different strategies in group discussions to assess how well students comprehend the material. Think-pair-share allows each student to receive a question and share responses with another; conceptually based multiple choice questions enable students to vote on answers before discussing them; abstract discussion means instructors post questions for which students write down responses before sharing them with classmates. Employing these various techniques gives instructors a great way to assess student comprehension.

An integral component of discussion group success lies in ensuring all participants contribute, especially non-participants who may feel shy or fearful of answering incorrectly. One approach to encouraging participation may be asking opinion questions that put participants at ease, while another could involve writing out answers, which may reduce anxiety some students experience when speaking in front of a group.

Another effective strategy for encouraging participation is giving those students who dominate discussions an opportunity to share their ideas with other students – either via ELMS, email, or office hours. Finally, instructors may use short-term discussion groups as an excellent way to get students used to working collaboratively on more long-term collaborative projects.

Video Lessons

Video lessons provide flexibility and convenience, enabling students to study whenever they fit into their busy lives. Unfortunately, they lack the interaction that occurs in a traditional classroom setting where students can ask questions and participate in discussions with both their teacher and fellow pupils. Furthermore, certain subjects require hands-on lab work, which cannot be replicated by videos alone. Yet teachers can still utilize video learning effectively to improve student outcomes.

One way to get students more engaged with video lessons is to use it as an opening activity in class. You could introduce the topic using YouTube or create your video – either way, it will help keep their attention. Active viewing tools such as HapYak or YouTube Annotate enable viewers to comment live while they view. Not all videos may be suitable for this approach, and it would be prudent to review any content-heavy videos prior to using them in class.

To ensure students are actively engaging with a video, it’s a good idea to include closed captioning so they can follow along while watching. Also helpful is shortening lengthy videos into smaller chunks with interactive elements that give students control – this could include labeled chapters in a video or using annotation tools to add pause points for reflection. Also beneficial are moments explicitly designed to prompt students to evaluate their understanding of material by starting consideration: mind mapping new ideas or Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine are great strategies.

Written Feedback

Peer feedback not only promotes active learning and social interactions, but it can also assist students in building communication skills. Instructors can utilize various technology-based platforms to give timely and detailed written feedback on assignments.

Effective feedback must be directed and precise, providing learners with clear direction on where to improve or learn from. Feedback for writing assignments shouldn’t just correct their work but should offer advice to improve its quality as well. Furthermore, feedback must be actionable; telling someone to “recalculate” is not helpful without providing him with specific ways in which he or she may do this.

Feedback should be an ongoing process; its frequency depends heavily on your learning goals; instantaneous feedback may be more suitable when learning new knowledge, while slightly delayed feedback could prove helpful when applying previously gained information.

Feedback can be one of the most powerful learning tools when combined with regular discussion and practice, yet finding time in a busy class schedule to implement feedback for all assignments can be challenging. Luckily, peer-assisted learning strategies exist which provide your students with feedback while saving you time in class.

Trade Off Teaching

This strategy works on the principle that students learn best when they can teach what they have learned to others; doing so also helps ensure they retain that information longer.

Richard points out that learning by teaching is one of the more understudied strategies for peer learning and deserves more consideration. He has found that this particular strategy has one of the highest impact sizes among all the techniques he has researched.

Richard discusses UMKC’s Peer Assisted Learning (PAL). PAL involves students in one year helping facilitate discussion sessions between classes from another year, which has proven effective for improving subject comprehension as well as helping develop academic literacy in all students in both categories – particularly useful when supporting those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds or different cultures in class.

Partner reading is another powerful way for students to work together. In this strategy, paired readers take turns reading aloud with each other while giving each other feedback about their reading, helping monitor comprehension. It has been shown to increase fluency and comprehension. Partner reading can be used with students from the same year or across grades, or even with parents or grandparents – it is a proven strategy for improving fluency and comprehension while building confidence among readers of all levels. Tutors may be friends, but this does not need to be the case!