The study of medicine is vast, complex, and poses an immense challenge for the medical students to become competent in all the core competencies. To facilitate learning among medical students, a wide range of teaching-learning methods has been employed by the teachers. It would not be wrong to assert that medical students understand the learning requirements of their peers and thus senior students (viz. vertical peer-assisted learning, wherein seniors who have already been through the learning experience guide their juniors) or peers (viz. horizontal peer-assisted learning, wherein students from the same batch learn together and the acceptance is high as there are no inhibitions) can significantly help to enhance the learning when compared with teachers. Acknowledging the fact, the concept of peer-assisted learning should be duly encouraged in medical institutions, as peers often remain together even beyond class hours.
In general, peer-assisted learning in the field of medical education refers to the learning wherein students who belong to the same or different student cohort, but who are not qualified as medical teachers (and are not content experts), aid each other to improve their knowledge and skills by participating in the teaching process.[1,2] The best part of the learning is that owing to the cognitive proximity of the peer teacher and learners, the learning environment is relaxed.
The peer teachers explain the complex topic, citing some practical illustrations which are easily understood and accepted by the learners.[2,3] The method of peer-assisted learning has been acknowledged and implemented in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in clinical as well as classroom settings.[1,3] Literature on the subject shows that the learning outcomes are quite comparable with conventional teaching and both the peer teacher and learner are benefited on the academic and professional front.[3–5]
MERITS FOR THE TEACHER
The approach is advantageous for peer teachers in that they become intrinsically motivated while preparing for the topic to be taught and thus acquire in-depth understanding of the topic. At the same time, it helps them to improve their confidence level, leadership skills, communication skills, presentation skills, and even improve the chances of excelling in a teaching profession later in their career.[2–4]
MERITS FOR THE STUDENT
This educational method not only reinforces the curriculum content but also fosters deep learning in the concerned topic, helps to identify the common areas where mistakes are committed, prepares students for better performance in examinations, and improves group dynamics among students.[3–5]
MERITS FOR THE INSTITUTION
Peer-assisted learning helps in situations where teachers find it difficult to balance patient care and teaching. It is important to note that various frameworks are available to plan and implement peer-assisted learning in the medical curriculum so that the intended results can be accomplished.[2,4]
IMPLEMENTATION OF PEER-ASSISTED LEARNING
To implement such sessions in a structured manner, the settings (classroom, skill laboratory, and wards.), theme, and content have to be defined well in advance. The peer teachers can be selected depending on their academic performance and are trained on the topic to explain or demonstrate the same to the learners.[3,5] However, the better approach will be to select the student cohort to decide on the peer tutor, as they will be better aware about who might be more equipped with the qualities to teach. Peer-assisted learning has been visualized as a mode of information transfer that is conducted by the students under the guidance of the teacher and not simply as a more knowledgeable student teaching his peers.
The need of the hour is that every medical institution should explore the possibility of the formal introduction of peer-assisted learning to enhance the learning outcomes of medical students.[1,3,4] We must acknowledge that the implementation model would comprise training of peer tutors, conduction of peer-assisted learning sessions without a teacher, and random assessment of learners by the teacher to ensure that learning outcomes have been achieved.
Peer-assisted learning in the field of medical education is quite beneficial as it makes the learning process interactive and emphasizes areas which require more attention. Furthermore, the attributes of easy approachability and teachinglearning in a less didactic manner are bound to improve the knowledge and skills of the learners.
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
1. Herrmann-Werner A, Gramer R, Erschens R, Nikendei C, Wosnik A, Griewatz J, et al. Peer-assisted learning (PAL) in undergraduate medical education:An overview. Z Evid Fortbild Qual Gesundhwes 2017;121:74–81.
2. Fallaha MA, Pagarkar A, Lucas N. Peer-assisted learning:A medical student perspective. Adv Med Educ Pract 2018;9:143–5.
3. De Silva NL, Parththipan B, Rodrigo C, Constantine G, Fernando SD, Rajapakse S. Peer assisted learning among Sri Lankan medical undergraduates:A cross sectional study. BMC Res Notes 2017;10:595.
4. Menezes A, Burgess A, Clarke AJ, Mellis C. Peer-assisted learning in medical school:Tutees'perspective. Adv Med Educ Pract 2016;7:31–8.
5. Shah I, Mahboob U, Shah S. Effectiveness of horizontal peer-assisted learning in physical examination performance. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad 2017;29:559–65.