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Peer to peer learning in the workplace


June 15, 2023



Peer to peer learning in the workplace

In your workplace, is some of your training set up so that trainees help teach other trainees? Or that a group of trainees cooperates to learn material and/or complete an assessment task? Those are just two peer to peer learning examples that you can take note of. In this article, we’ll discuss peer learning and dive deeper into the benefits of peer to peer learning in the workplace.

Benefits of peer to peer learning

Recent data on both online and F2F peer learning suggests that there are four factors to consider when building your peer to peer training or continuing employee education: interpersonal relationships, motivation for learning, attitude of learning, and enhancement of learning ability. When these factors are optimized, the peer to peer method yields a variety of benefits.

Builds stronger interpersonal relationships

As its name implies, peer to peer learning in the workplace happens among employees of similar levels and backgrounds. If a factory peer learning group included both line workers and management, for example, a line worker might feel shy to take the lead, even if they knew more than the manager.

Peer to peer learning - Builds stronger interpersonal relationships

Yet, when learning groups are balanced, one of the benefits of peer to peer learning in the workplace is stronger interpersonal relationships between the group members. This includes improved social skills and self-esteem in addition to better learning outcomes. 

In the cases in which the peer method must be used for ‘unequal’ groups, one solution can be anonymity. One study found that when peer comments were anonymous, learners who felt ‘weaker’ were more empowered to find their voices. 

This more effective communicative ability led to equal exam results between the ‘stronger’ and ‘weaker’ groups. Thus, training anonymously may remediate situations where top management and ‘regular’ employees need to train together.

Boosts learning motivation

There is always a reason why we do (or don’t do) something. Learning is no exception. In the workplace, it is often challenging to encourage trainees to complete their training or employees to finish their ongoing learning. Peer to peer learning examples show that this type of education method can help.

Peer to peer learning - boosts learning motivation

Peer learning behaves like an inclusive, supportive container; in other words, a safe space. In this space, all the skills of all the members are available to everyone. For example, trainees with poor study habits can develop new ones from the modeling of their better-organized peers. 

Those who are not used to self-learning (and thus may fall behind or get bored and stop) are carried forward by the momentum of the others. The inclusivity encourages higher motivation to finish and results in better academic or training achievement.

Encourages positive attitude toward learning

Although researchers do not know exactly why, the data shows that peer learning creates a more positive attitude toward learning. 

Peer to peer learning - Encourages positive attitude toward learning

Perhaps it is knowing that you are not alone; there is a group to help and support you. Maybe it is a little peer pressure; in other words, not wanting to let your peers down and/or not wanting to look ‘stupid’ in front of your peers. Overall, the peer to peer format helps trainees be more interested in their training and report that they like it.

Enhances learning ability

Learning ability is used to describe how quickly we can understand and apply new knowledge and/or skills. This includes how flexible we are in the ways we are able to gain this new information and competencies. Peer to peer learning in the workplace increases both the speed and flexibility of trainees’ learning abilities.

Peer to peer learning - Enhances learning ability

The theory is that the inclusivity of the peer to peer setup allows learners to study in the ways best for them. ‘Weaker’ or ‘less able’ group members can model their behaviors on their ‘stronger’, or ‘more able’ peers. 

As a whole, the group benefits from the diversity of study styles to improve overall performance and retention.

Drawbacks of peer to peer learning

On the other hand, there are some studies that give us more food for thought on the cons of peer to peer learning. One example is a recent study from Thailand that investigated self-directed (or proactive) learning. In this study, roughly 61% of the student-teachers reported that “self-directed learning is better achieved through social media than peer learning”. And the success of peer to peer learning “can be limited by which assessment process is used with it”.

To get better results, workplaces should not organize peer to peer learning just to check off ‘peer to peer learning’ on a to-do list. Secondly, the learning or training assessment should include components that reflect peer learning, not just learning.

Assessments in peer to peer learning

So what kind of assessments are suitable for the peer to peer method? Here are some points to consider when creating your assessment process:

  • Is your focus more on the learning outcomes or the teamwork aspect? Both options are equally valid. Yet, the results of one focus or the other will be very different with few points for comparison. So which focus supports your training goals?
  • When peer learning is only part of the overall training, how much weight is placed on these evaluation results as opposed to the more ‘formal’ results of other sections? That is, when considering the overall assessment as 100%, what percentage should be given to the peer aspect? Again, consider the training goals.
  • How much should the members be assessed as a group and how much should they be assessed as individuals? While it is tempting to see only the group, there is merit in seeing the individuals also. Once again, what is your training focus?

Using an LMS for peer to peer learning in the workplace

SC Training (formerly EdApp)’s peer authoring feature, for example, makes it simple to get the benefits of peer to peer learning in the workplace. When creating your training course, just include a peer authoring slide. This slide allows your trainees to upload a video. 

SC Training (formerly EdApp) Peer Authoring

The contents of that video will, of course, reflect the specific lesson or course goals. For example, your learners could show how they solved an engineering equation, verbally guiding their peers through their logical reasoning. Or the video could give 5 study tips. Another example is a video that gives a detailed opinion (opinion + supporting details) about a text, situation, or proposed solution.

SC Training (formerly EdApp) peer  to peer learning virtual discussion

Another great SC Training (formerly EdApp) feature that you can take advantage of is Discussions. This forum-style option allows everyone on your team to both post and comment. They can also upload photos and short videos. You can make a Discussion mandatory so that all team members must contribute. Overall, this is another effective way for peers to experience shared learning. 

SC Training (formerly EdApp) Discussions feature comments

Putting it all together with an example

Our restaurant is noticing several issues with the evening waitstaff shift. For one thing, the personal hygiene levels have fallen. For another, there is constant bickering and infighting. 

We decide to do some training. As a first step, we modify the SC Training (formerly EdApp) LMS courses Personal Hygiene and Teamwork in the Hospitality Industry with our branding and a few tweaks to the course content.

Then we add the peer to peer element. In the Hygiene course, we add the peer authoring feature. We instruct our waitstaff trainees to work together in groups of 3 to create a funny video that shows their understanding of the content of the course. 

In the Teamwork course, we add the discussions feature. Using actual situations which we have noticed in the restaurant, we post a series of 3 ‘hypothetical’ scenarios. Each time, we ask our waitstaff trainees to weigh in about why this situation is happening; what could be the emotions and motivations driving it. 

Then they need to propose an idea of how this situation could be avoided in the future. They are also encouraged to ‘agree/disagree and why’ with other people’s posts.

So what does success look like?

Obviously, completing the two courses with good results is one aspect. Another is that the video reflects a good understanding of their learning. A third would be thoughtful and frequent participation in the discussions. Lastly, we would want to include how well each video triad (group of 3) worked as a team, as well as how respectful and supportive people were in the discussions even when giving negative feedback.

If we felt that each section was equally important, we would give each 25% of the overall ‘grade’. If not, we would adjust accordingly.

Overall, peer to peer learning examples show that when it’s effective, no peer is left behind.

Ready to make your workplace training more inclusive and collaborative? Sign up for SC Training (formerly EdApp) Today!


Guest Author Lisa Aharon

Lisa Aharon is a guest author at SC Training (formerly EdApp), offering varied experience as a computer programmer/analyst, technical writer, secretary/bookkeeper, copy editor, creative writer, and English teacher.

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