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The Peer Learning PR Problem

No one cheers for broccoli or for the coach who calls for another lap. Peer learning is like that extra workload that you’re thankful for after it’s over. Like athletes, sometimes students will need a pep talk from the coach before a hard practice.

Instructors can help students who have previously experienced poor results from group work to raise their expectations. The pep talk can acknowledge reasons for those poor results and explain why peer learning in this course will get better over time through practice.

We offer two free, open-source readings that frame the issues:

  • Feedback and Improvement explains why giving feedback matters for learning and how everyone can be helpful.
  • Rethinking and Revising discusses how students can get the most out of the feedback they’ve received and how they can use helpfulness ratings to encourage peers to offer better comments next time. Several instructors have let us know that the section on Dweck’s growth mindset and Duckworth’s grit has led to good conversation and become recurring themes.

These readings can foster discussion on their own. For a richer discussion, ask students to complete our free, open-source think-pair-share activities ahead of class time. By reading a rationale for peer learning, writing a quick response paper, and giving feedback to a few classmates, students will come to class prepared to explore common trends in their beliefs about peer learning.

On the first day and throughout the course, giving students space to share their emotional reactions to peer learning can help them work through the blockers that occur in all teams. Be careful how much weight you give their dissent, however; don’t let a past poor experience be the only evidence students have to draw on regarding the value of peer learning.

Check out 4 more tips for starting your term off well with peer learning:

Cover photo credit: Steffen Zahn

The Peer Learning PR Problem was published to the Eli Review Blog in the category Uncategorized.

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