An investigation into student perceptions of peer learning

Ryan, Julianne, Malik, Rabia and Clifford, Amanda (2011) An investigation into student perceptions of peer learning. [Conference Proceedings]


Peer Learning (PL) involves using experienced students (leaders), working alone or in pairs, to regularly facilitate and supervise the learning of a small group of first year students (learners). This group learning 'PL session' is usually classroom-based, designed to offer a range of benefits to; an institution, its teaching teams, its courses, and to students involved (Capstick, 2004). Despite this learning strategy being used extensively throughout third level undergraduate programmes in Ireland and UK (Capstick, 2004) a significant gap in research exists on student perceptions of PL. The aim of this pilot study is to investigate student perceptions of peer learning in an undergraduate physiotherapy programme. This study is a pilot quasi-quantitative cross-sectional retrospective questionnaire design. Following ethical approval, a sample of convenience of a cohort of 2nd and 4th year students was invited to participate via email. Questionnaire designed by the researcher consisted of mainly closed questions (participants rating statements on 5-point Likert scale from strongly disagree- strongly agree) with several open questions throughout the questionnaire; incorporating both quantitative and qualitative component to the study. Data analysis was performed with SPSS and thematic analysis undertaken for open-ended questions. A valid response rate of 81.5% was obtained. The overall response to PL was positive with comments such as PL helps clarify difficult topics, provides advice on best ways to learn, facilitates discussion and questions on topics that aren't fully understood. 75% of participants agreeing / strongly agreeing that PL benefited them in 3rd level education. The reported negative aspects were related to timing and organisation of the sessions. The results showed that generally students perceived PL as a valuable and beneficial intervention. This form of learning could be extended to other years and further research is recommended involving more students.

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