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From peers to professors: Study shows the benefits of students encouraging students

How many schools are promoting the peer-to-peer learning strategy? Source: Shutterstock

Aside from technological performance data updates and flashy star charts to boost student progress in the classroom, why not go back to basics?

In the EdTech world, there’s always a new gadget that encourages learners to excel at exams and maintain high results.

But new research suggests that students don’t always need aid from tech tools and educational enhancement instruments.

Instead, they can look to their peers for support and effective motivation.

Does this method encourage students to study more? Source: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

The progression of peer-to-peer support

Recently published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the study’s authors, Lauren Eskreis-Winklera, Katherine L. Milkmana, Dena M. Grometb and Angela L. Duckworth explore the impact of motivational peer-to-peer advice in high schools.

Highlighting the fact that some methods, such as additional tutoring or printed motivational materials can be costly for schools, the authors label peer-to-peer support as a cost-effective method that doesn’t necessarily need extra funds or financial backing to enforce it.

After conducting a large-scale field test that involved approximately 1,982 students attending seven diverse public high schools in the United States and an advice-giving activity, the study soon revealed interesting results.

“The advice-giving activity, which took an average of 8 min to complete, prompted participants to advise younger students. Specifically, participants completed 14 open-ended and multiple-choice questions in which they gave advice on optimal study locations and study strategies.

“Finally, participants wrote a motivational letter to an anonymous younger student who was ‘hoping to do better in school’. At the conclusion of this activity, students completed a battery of self-report measures and a behavioural task,” the authors explain.

A variety of methods can motivate peer-to-peer support. Source: Shutterstock

Reviewing results

“Compared with those in the control group, students who gave advice earned higher third-quarter grades in their target class…in the fourth quarter, advice-giving produced a marginally significant increase in math grades,” claim the results.

By encouraging the study sample to broaden their outlook on peer-to-peer advice, there’s no doubt that participants and educators walked away from this experiment feeling refreshed and encouraged to carry out successful exam preparation.

“While it may seem surprising that an 8-min intervention boosted achievement over an entire academic quarter, many simple, psychologically informed interventions and nudges produce lasting behaviour change. Interventions that are psychologically wise, like an advice-giving prompt, generate long-term effects by tapping into recursive psychological processes,” the authors conclude.

Considering the fact that every student will view academic support differently, peer-to-peer motivation may not always be the answer to heightened grade results or increased student engagement.

Nonetheless, this study reflects the positive effects it can have when conducted in a professional and encouraging manner.

How can teachers implement peer-to-peer support?

If this study provokes a desire to implement the same type of strategies in your classroom, here are a few interesting tasks that could encourage the success of peer-to-peer motivation:

Feedback fun

By teaching students about the different types of feedback and great motivational sayings to hand out to their peers, pupils start to comprehend the influential role of feedback in the classroom.

Taking turns to teach

Handing over the lesson to a student may seem like a silly idea at first, but allowing them to conduct a 10-20-minute session about a topic of their choice will increase their independent thinking skills and allow them to give on-the-spot feedback to their peers.

Quiz marking

Setting students up in small groups and conducting a quiz is another effective way to boost student engagement and switch up the educational framework. By marking the quiz together, they can write down encouraging feedback and even compliment other teams on their knowledge.

Of course, these are just a couple of ways to induce peer-to-peer support in the classroom, and all are worth a try.

By encouraging student-to-student engagement, you’ll be creating a positive learning environment for all to enjoy and benefit from!

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