SPONSORED: Harnessing the power of peer to peer learning

As an educator or parent, have you ever wondered why children and young people are taught in the way that they are?

Every year, new Government policies, teaching trends and technology-based interventions are introduced into schools across the country, yet very few people stop to ask, “are these methods effective?” and “what evidence do we have to support this?”

To help educators understand the evidence base for interventions commonly used to raise learner attainment, in 2018, The Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF) released a teaching and learning toolkit. The interactive toolkit aims to provide an accessible summary to demonstrate the effectiveness of different teaching and learning interventions used by students aged 5-16. With results based on international research, the toolkit shows the impact of interventions on learner progress in months, against their cost and the strength of the evidence which supports this.

Extra-curricular tutoring outside of the classroom has always proven advantageous for learners, with evidence to that effect shown in the EEF toolkit. However, for those learners who the cost associated with private tuition is out of reach, there is another way.

Proven by extensive research to be just as effective as private tuition, enabling learners to progress by an average of up to five months but at a fraction of the cost, peer-to-peer tutoring is used by students all over the world to help them consolidate what they have learned in the classroom.

With a range of approaches available, peer tutoring can be delivered in different ways to appeal to learners’ individual learning styles. In some cases, learners work in pairs or small groups to provide teaching support. Other common approaches include cross-age peer tutoring, in which an older student takes on a tutoring role for a younger student, or reciprocal peer tutoring, where learners alternate between the role of tutor or tutee.

In each approach, research shows that peer-to-peer learning works best when tutors are provided with structured materials to work through with their learner during short sessions, no more than 30 minutes long, and delivered in intensive blocks over the course of 4-10 weeks to maximise impact.

Wayne Harrison, Founder and Managing Director at Peer Tutor.

In studying these findings, we recognised that through the power of technology, we could widen the appeal of peer-to-peer learning and make its benefits accessible to everyone to create a better balance in students’ learning experiences.

Replicating the delivery model of face-to-face peer tutoring, we developed the Peer Tutor mobile app; a fully-digital platform which provides young people with around the clock, ‘on demand’ access to tailored learning support delivered by a verified peer tutor.

Operated on a credit-based, pay as you learn system, learners can purchase ‘gems’ to exchange for question and answer based support, essay feedback or a 30-minute live tutoring session in a virtual classroom, all delivered through the app by fellow students who have passed their own exams at Level 6 (Grade B) or above, and supported by high quality learning resources provided by the educational publisher, Collins.

Using all of the research at our disposal, we’ve worked really hard to develop the app in line with the needs of not just learners, but educators and parents too. We have built in a number of security features, including the latest AI screening technologies, to moderate questions and feedback to ensure that young people stay safe while using the app. Furthermore, only peer tutors with a valid DBS check are eligible to deliver live lessons. The live lessons use no webcams, but the audio is recorded for safeguarding purposes.

In light of the ongoing situation with COVID-19, we find ourselves at present in unchartered waters. With schools and colleges closed and examinations cancelled, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the education sector, with thousands of young people conscious of how this pandemic might impact their futures.

Free webinars for GCSE students

To help keep learners on track until schools reopen, we’re offering free webinar sessions for GCSE students covering science, English and humanities subjects.

Hosted by verified peer tutors, the short weekly sessions will cover a range of topics from the GCSE curriculum to help make sure that learners don’t miss out on vital teaching time during lockdown.

For more information and a timetable of upcoming sessions, visit: https://www.ncfe.org.uk/free-student-support-from-peer-tutor.