One classroom strategy that emerged from the workshops and that was also utilised during the semester of university classes was peer-assisted learning. This strategy was highlighted by the workshop teacher as being valuable in mathematics classes and I would have thought it could also be effectively applied across a range of disciplines. It seems, however, that there is currently greater evidence to support this strategy as providing important benefits specifically in mathematics (see for example Parkinson, 2009 and Cheng & Walters, 2009), with some reservations about its value in other subject areas during secondary schools (for example its value for comprehension in Apthorp & Clark, 2007, compared to PE in Chung Wai Keung, 2011). A more peer-centred approach is certainly consistent with the New Tech model reportedly proving successful in an Australian school (Arlington, 2012).
The affordances of peer-assisted learning are something I have experienced firsthand during my education. Most recently, in our CPP2 classes, the pair-share technique and occasions of working in small groups has reinforced the value of this method for the classroom. As recorded in the literature noted earlier, this strategy helps to engage a broader spectrum of the classroom and can enhance learning for all involved. One of the reported limitations is a perception from student’s who feel they are missing out on direct input from the teacher’s expertise. As my workshop teacher also pointed out, any group arrangements done to facilitate peer development can be hard to organise and to control. It would seem, however, that the potential benefits outweigh any drawbacks from this approach and as such, I endeavour to make this a feature of classes that I teach.
- Apthorp, H., & Clark, T. (2007). Using strategy instruction to help struggling high schoolers understand what they read (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007–No. 038). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Central. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs
- Arlington, K. (2012, April 12). Old school, new approach. The Sydney Morning Herald, p.13.
- Cheng, D. & Walters, M. (2009). Peer-assisted learning in mathematics: An observational study of student success. Journal of Peer Learning, 2(1), 23-39. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/ajpl/vol2/iss1/3
- Chung, L., & Wai Keung, K. (2011). Mosston’s Reciprocal Style of Teaching: A Pilot Study in Hong Kong. New Horizons In Education, 59(2), 27-37.
- Parkinson, M. (2009). The effect of peer assisted learning support (PALS) on performance in mathematics and chemistry. Innovations In Education And Teaching International, 46(4), 381-392. doi:10.1080/14703290903301784