This week look into the world of peer to peer learning and what it can do for your school

As a professional learning leader you are probably always on the look out for ways of enhancing CPD in your school − particularly for any ideas which don’t cost the Earth! With budgets in mind, this week we dig a little deeper into the world of peer to peer learning and what it can do for your school. We also highlight a General Teaching Council for England event focusing on childhood, well-being and primary education.

Quote of the Week “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

− Voltaire

Practical Tips Supporting peer to peer learning − 8 top tips All too often we think of professional learning for school staff as involving potentially costly training − either bought in or experienced off-site − but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that all learning of value will come at a cost! One of the most powerful learning tools for schools is easily achievable and builds on the experiences of teachers and others as ‘learners, doers and teachers’. Conversations and exchanges between members of staff of all varieties can make a real difference to teaching and learning, making peer to peer learning a valuable goal to pursue.

Cultivating the kind of learning culture that is supportive of peer to peer learning is all about shared knowledge and learning as opposed to teaching, and this is a useful distinction to keep in mind. These top tips will also help:

  • Trust and transparency − Without what is known as ‘reciprocal vulnerability’, maximum benefit from the arrangement won’t be possible.
  • Facilitation − Within your school, it might help to facilitate peer to peer learning through small groups with deliberately varied skills.
  • Context − Peer to peer learning in schools can help individuals to contextualise professional development experienced outside the school environment. Maximum potential will be reached by bringing external learning back to the school and sharing it with colleagues in a critical way. Learning conversations like these can help put learning into the context in which teachers must work − it is a lack of this context which is frequently a major flaw in so much training.
  • Monitoring − Keep a close eye on participation rates. Peer to peer learning can only be truly successful if everyone is fully engaged.
  • Encouragement − Ask staff to think about how they can link learning experiences so that they complement each other.
  • Extension − Peer to peer learning can also extend beyond your school walls to include colleagues in neighbouring schools. Building up dialogues in this way is cost-effective and potentially fruitful.
  • Sharing − Learning necessitates knowledge sharing, so any peer to peer learning relationships need to balance these two features if they are to work fairly.
  • Clarity − Always keep in mind why, as aschool, you might be encouraging peer to peer learning. This is about increasing communication levels, understanding more about each others’ experiences of work and fostering a culture in which colleagues nurture and support professional learning for the sake of the outcomes of pupils.

Find Out More:

CUREE, the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, has extensive information on its website regarding peer to peer learning and professional learning conversations:

Read about Littlehampton Community School’s successful approach to peer to peer learning here.

Issues and Information

Childhood, well-being and primary education An event to be hosted by the GTCE on 17th March in Westminster will bring together interim findings from two major, ongoing enquiries: the Primary Review and the Good Childhood Inquiry. This is a free event (although spaces are limited) and it has been designed as an opportunity for teachers and others in the field to share their views on the work of the two enquiries to date.

Find Out More:

If you would like to register your interest in the event or join in the debate about how a good childhood and good primary education can be achieved, send an email with your name, role, organisation and location to: [email protected]

Read about a submission by the Institute of Education to the Primary Review, on the pressures of a high performance culture here.

The website for the Good Childhood Inquiry can be found here

For more on the Primary Review click here

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.