The importance of peer learning

Is Peer Learning a real solution to improve your knowledge acquisition?

Peer learning is a learning technique that promotes collaboration and teamwork to acquire knowledge. In effect, it is the learners who, based on a different concept and information, must answer a problem without the intervention of a teacher.

Each learner is both a receiver and a giver of knowledge. All learners work together to find a solution to a given problem. The individual skills acquired before or during the teamwork are then shared among all teammates.

Also called "horizontal" learning, the trainer, if there is one, does not teach anything, however, he/she can help the learners during the process if necessary.

What are the origins of peer learning?

Peer Learning comes straight from Harvard University, more precisely from a physicist and professor Eric Mazur. He decided to work on a new learning technique when he discovered that his students were able to successfully solve a problem, but failed to understand a concept.

Eric Mazur started developing this concept in 1991. Initially, Peer Learning was only used to explain rather short concepts between different modules, but over time it has evolved and now allows it to be fully favoured over other learning methods.

One of the important points of Peer Learning is to create effective conceptual questions that guide the learner perfectly, to do this Eric Mazur advises to fix these precisely on one concept at a time.

In 1997, Eric Mazur finally published a book entitled "Peer Instructions: A User's Manual". He is now recognized as a major pioneer of this technique.

How does this relate to learning?

Learning has always been questioned and this is even more true today. As we look for ever more effective ways to learn (such as peer learning), we realise that neuroscience could have a major role to play in the field of learning. Indeed, they allow us to understand how the brain reacts when it has to learn, from acquisition to memorization. Many studies have been carried out on this subject and new avenues are still being explored.

To clarify this, here are several areas related to learning where neuroscience has the potential to improve ourteaching methods.

  • Attention is used to select information and acts directly in the process of memorising information. Its biggest flaw is that it is selective, only picking up what we think is relevant, and can cause us to miss a lot of information. To overcome this, it is necessary to focus the learner on what is most important, by defining the objectives well, we can obtain a better attention of the audience.
  • Action increases the amount of information retained, as the learner must be engaged, whether through peer learning, another learning method or simply by involving the learner in a real case. Several studies have already proven that when you are an actor rather than a spectator, you can increase your memorization rate by more than 50%.
  • Feedback is benevolent, it is practical because it allows you to get an interesting critique of what you have just done. It is even more so if you are in error, you will tend to want an answer and if this feedback comes some time after the error, it will be optimal for learning. With ChallengeMe we always try to keep a positive and benevolent attitude for the teams during the challenges.
  • Practising and repeating a task frees up part of our brain to accumulate new information, and once we have repeated an action enough, it becomes natural and no longer requires us to search our memory. It is estimated that a task needs to be repeated for an average of 21 days so that it no longer requires any effort on the part of the brain to perform.

So that's a non-exhaustive list of what neuroscience has improved so far, and you'll probably have realised what's at stake in the field of learning.

Why choose Peer Learning?

The advantage of peer learning is that it allows learners to focus on understanding rather than solving. This develops a spirit of collaboration and cooperation among learners and makes them more effective.

When you follow a traditional learning process with a trainer, you are a spectator, waiting for the trainer to bring you knowledge. This has several negative effects:

  1. A lack of interactivity that makes it difficult to retain a range of information.
  2. The content taught can be quite strict and not very flexible, there is a real lack of innovation and creativity in problem solving.
  3. On the other hand, Peer Learning makes the learner adopt a dynamic that he would not have otherwise, he does not just wait to receive knowledge, he transmits it. This favours their ability to listen, as they know that they will then have to pass it on to their peers, so they will be more concentrated in acquiring information.

Whereas with Peer Learning :

  1. The fact of sharing his answer makes the learner think more deeply, he wants to help his peers and will therefore try to propose the most elaborate answer possible.
  2. By sharing their answer with their teammates, the learner will see different ways of solving a problem, and will be able to bounce back more easily should they encounter it.
  3. Feedback from teammates is one of the biggest advantages of Peer Learning, as the feedback is really personalised and adapted to the team's working environment, the response really fits the needs of each individual.
  4. It is a technique that places the learner in a position of trust. Knowing that they are being trained by someone who shares their work and knows the ins and outs of it will make it easier for them to adapt to their environment. It will be easier for them to share their experience, as it will fit in well with the team.
  5. This mode of learning can lead to learners practising Reverse Coaching if the team has a variety of age groups in the company.

Neuroscience is dear to ChallengeMe

At ChallengeMe, we place a great deal of importance on neuroscience, a field that we are passionate about, and we try to understand it as well as possible in order to propose learning methods that are increasingly developed, interesting, and as effective as possible for you. Our ChallengeMe solution has become possible thanks to the research carried out in this field in the past. It is thanks to this research that we can estimate many things such as the percentage of information retained by the brain following a presentation.

The proposed challenges have 3 stages during which the key elements mentioned above are applied as much as possible. For example, the 2nd step allows you to get this benevolent feedback, as you will receive constructive comments from your team members on how you did. The advantage of the 3 steps is that you can also work on repetition, with challenge content that remains available during them. You will be constantly in action to reinforce the amount of information retained and the power of the learning you receive.

In conclusion:

Although the focus here is on their use in the world of learning, neuroscience is important in many areas. It allows us to understand how the human brain learns, memorises and many studies have been carried out to advance research on this subject. This allows us to adjust existing methods or to create new learning methods to be ever more efficient in the acquisition of knowledge.

If you are interested in this use of neuroscience in the field of learning and how the brain interprets it, you can start by reading Philippe Lacroix's book on the subject: "Neurolearning: neuroscience for training".