The covid-19 pandemic put more than just a health scare into a lot of individuals. The pandemic also posed a risk to many professionals and their careers. The educational sector notwithstanding. Yes, schools went into lockdowns, and remote learning, as teachers began to provide their curriculum through e-learning sites and tutoring apps. But the migration towards e-learning sites saw a rise of alternative forms of education and learning support. Most notably of which, peer-to-peer learning.
Today, the best e-learning sites are collaborative classrooms and peer learning platforms, where students meet for learning support and studying together. Peer Square is one such site. A collaborative community that provides its students and participants alike with the knowledge, connections, and tools for proper academic and learning support. In order to provide the best e-learning experience, the aim of Peer Square is to connect students through one platform where they can find all their collaborative classroom needs.
With that being said, the rise in such platforms has led several onlookers to question the role of teachers in these online, decentralized communities. If students are to learn from their peers, then what role do teachers have in all of this?
Defining Peer Learning
By definition, peer-to-peer learning is an extra educational practice that allows students to receive the added learning support they don’t usually receive through traditional methods of education. Studying together, students interact with one another to attain educational goals. Through connecting and collaborating, students are able to learn from one another, a method made more accessible to them through the rise of e-learning sites and EdTech solutions.
Peer learning has shown to be effective because of the many benefits it has had on enhancing academic support for students. Firstly, from peer learning, students get to receive information from their peers, who better understand their struggles and limitations. Through this, they are more adept at providing knowledge to their peers. Whether the exchange is done in person, through tutoring apps, or e-learning sites is not essential. What’s essential is that students receive the learning support that they need in order to improve their academic performance.
The Role of the Teacher in Traditional Education
In traditional educational settings, the role of the teacher has been deemed a supervisor and authoritative figure. Similar to how an employee is intimidated by his superior, in most traditional educational settings, students are often intimidated by the teacher, as is common with most authoritative figures. This role is pretty much standard, no matter the venue, whether it’s in a classroom at school or on e-learning sites where teachers and students study together as if they were in traditional classrooms.
It’s important to distinguish the role of teachers in traditional educational settings because their roles change drastically when it comes to peer-to-peer learning.
So, what -then- becomes the role of the teacher on these online platforms and collaborative classrooms?
The teacher’s role in peer learning changes, given that the dynamic of the educational exchange changes. In peer learning, the learning support no longer becomes about a specific curriculum or outline. The focus is shifted towards peer-to-peer exchanges and connections.
In this sort of dynamic, one role the teacher plays is the facilitator. The facilitator focuses on what the student does and empowers the students’ learning activities. This facilitation provides the prototypical organizational specifications needed for learning. Scheduling learning hours, providing guidance and assistance, organizing lessons, are all functions for the role of the facilitator. It’s important to note that the role of the facilitator is not to intervene with the learning support of the students, but to allow them to assume responsibility for their own learning.
Although peer-to-peer learning has its many benefits, it also has its limitations. One such limitation is the limitation of the peers themselves. After all, the peers are simultaneously the students and the teachers. To teach is to learn, and vice versa. Certain knowledge limitations may arise. Even communication may be a barrier. This is where the teacher takes on the role of mediator.
The Mediator is a person who will step in, at the student’s request, to provide clarity, corroborating and checking answers, model behavior for the tutor, and more. The intervention is mostly spontaneous, and at the behest of the students, as to not interrupt or interfere with the flow and connection of the peer learning exchange. Even on e-learning sites where students frequently support learning, teachers may remain in a passive role until otherwise called upon by the students to intervene and mediate the students studying together. On the e-learning sites where teachers don’t have access, like Peer Square, for instance, teachers have the choice of mediation during traditional classroom hours if needed.
Lender of Last Resort
Oftentimes, authorities are needed in environments to provide an important and essential service: to be the lender of last resort. As mentioned above, students in peer learning are limited in their knowledge of a subject. With that being said, they will require an outlet of information and knowledge readily available in order to ensure proper learning support. This is where the role of the teacher becomes the provider of that last resort. A qualified individual is present, that students can resort to while studying together, for further learning support, verification, or guidance. Inside peer learning environments, teachers can remain in teacher capacity, but only intervene when requested by the students. Their role, therefore, doesn’t really change. However, it is reduced and only required as a last resort.
Most importantly, the role teachers can play in peer learning environments is that of a friend. Peer learning practices take place outside the confined constraints of traditional classrooms. They take place on e-learning sites that provide the best e-learning services available. They also take place in collaborative classrooms, where collaboration and connection are encouraged. This is where teachers can learn to take a lesser role than the prototypical role requires of them.
This is where teachers can learn to connect with students as less authoritative figures. This is where a platform like Peer Square makes teacher’s lives and jobs easier. By providing their students a platform where they can independently learn and add to their academia, the teacher’s job will be assisted by this complimentary collaborative classroom.
A friend is an important role teacher can play in peer learning as the approach in all has been found to reduce the stress of learning, be beneficial to everyone, and increase student engagement.