STRUCTURING FORMATIVE PEER LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM
Peer learning is an educational practice in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals. Examples of Mitra's (2010) »Hole in the Wall« experiment and Mazur's (Crouch et al., 2007) Peer instruction method, among others, show that there is a great deal of potential in peer learning. But to be peer learning really efficient we need to structure it, and not just introduce it in the classroom.
Ryan and Deci (2000) define motivation on the basis of the need for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Formative assessment, Flipped learning and individualized forms of mastery learning, in which students can move through material more or less at their own rates, allow us to address those needs.
Namely individualized forms of (flipped) learning address the need for autonomy to set personalized goals and choose the assignments, mastery learning addresses the need for competence while helping peer learn seems to address the need for relatedness to many students.
But if we want peer learning to become truly efficient we need to recognize and encourage students to tutor peers. There's where formative assessments with smaler units and frequent feedback comes in. Namely if tutor and tutee sees the progress frequently they both get motivated for future learning, while the tutor also advances his competence.
Because of frequent feedback and goal settings, there becomes no need for high stake testing and all the negative effects that come with them. Instead two best learning strategies (Dunlosky et al., 2013), distributed practice and self-testing with frequent feedback, are used. In this way growth mindset - that intelligence can be developed with effort, is encouraged (Dweck, 2007).
As eliminating high stake tests reduces stress and the degree of original learning (mastery) seems to be the most important variable for long-term retention (Farr, 1987), it comes as no surprise that students prefer this method over traditional one while also achieving better results.