Peer interaction: Why it’s an effective way of learning

It’s very essential for students to interact in the classroom and outside the school environment. In fact, educationists say this is a very important aspect of the learning process because it influences lifelong habits of the learners.

Peer learning is a form of collaborative learning that facilitates active learning. The potential impact of this kind of interaction is mutual; students get to learn a lot from each other, thus positively contributing to academic success.

Prof. Alphonse Uworwayeho, a lecturer of mathematics at the University of Rwanda believes that reinforcement of peer learning facilitates enormous outcomes in education.

He says there are learners who isolate or avoid interaction in and out of the classroom, especially when in the presence of an educator. Such learners, he says although they can learn just like others, it’s very hard to understand them especially when it comes issues related to academics.

Peer learning is relevant to all levels of education. Net photo.

He notes that in case of an issue with them, it becomes difficult to handle them because it’s hard to even know where to start. This according to him can have a negative impact, not only on their academics but also with their life in general.

Uworwayeho also says that with peer learning, students get a chance to be motivated by one another. For instance, if one has issues with understanding a certain concept, they tend to learn from their colleagues who have mastered the concept, which promotes competition when it comes to learning, he notes.

“Personally I consider peer learning as a key element in the whole learning process because, here, everyone supports each other and in the long-run learners get to grow and gain skills in different areas,” he adds.

Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro is of the view that peer learning helps students to air out their problems and issues openly as compared to when they have an instructor around.

This, he says promotes understanding among themselves and most importantly, learners grow intellectually as well.

Promotes sociability

“Peer learning is one way teachers can help support learners to acquire knowledge and improve sociability among others. Teachers need to encourage this kind of learning to provide room for students to be interactive,” Niyonshuti says.

For Prof Danson Musyoki Kimeu, the vice-chancellor at KIM University says peer learning is one of the aspects that is being used even in higher learning institutions because of its advantages.

He says this method was mostly used in lower levels before however he believes it shouldn’t be overlooked now since it’s relevant to all levels of education.

One of the reasons Kimeu advocates for this form of learning is because he believes students are able to interact among themselves, which encourages social and emotional wisdom as well as reflection on self-awareness.

It also creates opportunities for learners to practice effective skills both individually and in groups, he adds, noting that when learners study on their own, their needs are usually met; they get along with others and also develop healthy relationships.

“Socially, students learn to communicate effectively with others and learn to ask questions whenever they have a problem. The skills they get from peer interaction can also help them interact well with other people outside school environment,” he says.

Students also learn to be inquisitive, which is one of the very effective methods of learning. This form of learning also comes in handy when one is doing group work, Kimeu adds.

“When such students go for master’s degree; they already have the skills of doing proper presentations.”

Room for productivity

Mathias Nkeeto, a mathematics teacher at Green Hills Academy says teachers are given room to be more productive adding that through these discussions, teachers are also able to find out where their students need improvement.

Nkeeto also believes that peer learning makes students feel relaxed which isn’t usually the case in the presence of an educator.

“This feeling of being relaxed is vital to learners because it impacts positively on their ability to not only learn but also think positively and be able to focus on whatever they are doing as far as academics is concerned,” he says.

He however cautions that students should not just be left alone, organising them is important as this maximises productivity.

“They should be arranged in groups where there can be a chair person, secretary, advisors who should be chosen by the teachers,” he adds.

According to Paul Swagga, an instructor at Akilah institute, peer learning enables students to share ideas and experiences from one another with limited support from the teacher.

He says it’s an effective learning strategy as long as the groups are structured whereby each member of the group is assigned to a specific role to play to make them accountable.

“Higher achievers may be grouped with the low achievers such that the former support the latter to develop the concept,” he says.

How to encourage peer learning

Uworwayeho says educators can use case studies, problem based learning among others to promote this kind of interaction among students.

He says it’s vital for the teachers to know the strategies to use, that is why it is important to consider the different learning capacities of students.

“Although this kind of learning may come along with a lot of challenges, it’s the role of the teacher to make sure everything is in control through close supervision. This can as well be done by appointing leaders among students to ensure a smooth learning process,” he says.

“Teachers should come up with a lesson on a certain subject they have previously taught and let the students discuss about it. This should aim at determining whether students mastered the topic,” he suggests.

Uworwayeho says with this, learners not only get to know more of what has been taught in class but also learn about themselves because when they are all by themselves, there is less tension and most of them tend to open up.

“They open up even when it comes to issues affecting them socially and also others from their surroundings. Through their leaders, it is easier to present their grievances to the teacher in charge,” he says.

He then adds that this makes it easier for such students to be followed up and the best solution can be provided.

Kimeu says there is need for training of teachers to best practise this form of learning.

“Peer learning requires a special approach, educators hence need to be trained such that the main objective is achieved at the end of the day,” he notes.

Their Views

Marie Ann Uwanziga, Parent
At home, parents should make sure they help their children create a good relationship with their peers. This is important to a child’s social development. Supporting their friendship with others will help them develop social skills as well.

Jerome Muhire, Teacher
There is a need for teachers to identify what learners are good at, especially at a younger age. This will help them assign them to head specific activities that suit them well. This helps boosts students’ morale to learn and even do better in other areas.

Violette Iradukunda, University student
Educators should have diverse methods of teaching strategies to make sure that all students are on the same page. This is because each student is different and they understand things differently.

Joseph Mugabo, High school student
This kind of interaction when well supervised; it helps students respect not only their fellow students but their seniors as well. Through the interaction, there is a lot gained than when learners are supervised by teachers.other things.