An Unequal Shepherd’s Pie

Peer Teaching

In the quest for excellence in higher education, several learning institutions are changing their focus from instructional teaching to independent and effective learning. This paradigm shift in education philosophy has led several educational institutions to employ the method of peer observation of teaching or peer review which serves to facilitate the exchange of constructive feedback and experiences between students. A peer teaching session usually involves a reciprocal arrangement in which one will have to observe and evaluate each other’s teaching.

Benefits of Peer Teaching

Several educators believe that peer teaching can provide students with critical insights and enhance their learning experiences. Furthermore, it provides a platform for students to have open discussions about their feedback, opinions and related issues. Despite the wide range of benefits attain through this learning method, there are no doubt several challenges to this teaching strategy. One of the most obvious challenges is the lack of formal knowledge in some students which might pose a problem when giving constructive feedback or evaluation. Students have a wide range of abilities.

The problem also exists between students and teachers or professors. For instance, I knew of a research science undergraduate who was giving a presentation to a professor about a cell biology research project. In order to give a fair grade, the professor will have to evaluate and review the research project. Instead of posing questions related to cell biology, this neurobiology professor who does intensive research in Alzheimer’s disease had asked questions like,” What are the current new findings in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?”

Is this always fair?

Some students are brilliant and self-motivated while others disregard the value of peer teaching and remain callous during peer review sessions. Their presence and contributions to the class may affect the overall effectiveness of this teaching strategy. Furthermore, the peer teaching process really boils down to the question as to whether all students are good teachers.

“When three men walk together, there is always something I can learn. Choose to follow what is good in them and correct what is not good ”

– Confucius Analects

Making sense of the quote

The acquisition of knowledge involves the sharing of widespread knowledge and skills among people from all walks of life. With reference to the Confucius Analects quoted above, I have to agree that there is always something we can learn from each other. Before one goes nodding unanimously with this intellectual quote, one should stop and ponder about the following sentence:” Choose to follow what is good in them and correct what is not good.” With this sentence in mind, I cannot seem to how the two sentences weave in together. How do you select what is good and what is bad? Do students knew how to make clever and wise decisions in learning what is deemed good or bad?

In conclusion…

All beneficial health drugs which claim to alleviate or treat diseases comes along with adverse effects. Similarly, peer teaching which is seen as an effective teaching method by some, has “side effects” and risks which may appear to be rather subtle. Some students reap greater benefits from peer teaching sessions while others reap less. Perhaps, a more effective way of peer teaching is to have the teacher or educator to constantly supervise, observe and intervene when necessary to keep things on track. Peer teaching should serve to be a “dessert” for students to enhance their learning experience.

A Shepherd has to guide the lost sheep so that every sheep receives an equal share of the shepherd’s pie. -Deenise

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