Share to Know is a European network for people and organisations interested in advancing peer to peer learning for young people.
From March 2015 – January 2017, partner organisations will exchange and test a range of methodologies and approaches towards non-formal learning experiences. We believe that these approaches are particularly valuable for young people who haven’t had a positive experience of education, or who struggle to access training or employment opportunities. We aim to explore how peer to peer learning can address employment related topics and skills, and to share our own learning and resources with other practitioners.
For almost all organisations and institutions that have an educational mission, measuring outcomes and evaluating progress is a central aspect of the work. This is usually driven both by an internal desire to understand what has been effective and inform the further development of practice and, by external requirements, to evidence the success of the approach (to funders, educational authorities, potential students etc.)
However, the emphasis of reporting often lies in the realm of quantitative data, with a particular reliance upon measures related to attendance and academic attainment in order to demonstrate impact and progress for young people. Whilst these measures are important, practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborate learning recognise that they capture only a partial aspect of the wide range of outcomes that can achieved. Too often, progress that is harder to quantify (such as the development of social and emotional capabilities, forming or strengthening relationships or the widening of aspirations and self-belief) does not get fully captured and understood.
At the Share to Know learning event in February, we hosted a workshop to explore the importance of storytelling and other creative approaches to demonstrating impact. Together with Alice Sachrajda, a researcher specialising in creative qualitative methods, we exchanged ideas and experiences about how practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborative learning methods can more fully demonstrate their impact and evaluate their work.
You can download information sheets on some of the approaches we discussed here.
This was one of the questions that opened our Share to Know learning event on 1oth February, where practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborative learning methods came together to exchange ideas and insights about furthering the use of these important educational approaches. Responses to the question were diverse and surprising, setting the tone for a day of vibrant conversations and new perspectives.
Through a series of short presentations and workshops we had the opportunity to share insights from our 2-year Erasmus+ exchange, Share to Know partnership, a collaboration between The Young Foundation, Street College (a project at Gangway, Germany’s largest youth organisation) and Alma Folk High School (a Swedish further education institution). What we all had in common is a belief that learning and education processes are at their best when they are strengths-orientated, learner-led and social.
We also learnt about the work of 5 other innovative people and projects:
- Enrol Yourself is a project that’s developing the concept of a ‘learning marathon’, running a 6-month learning programme with a curriculum that is collaboratively designed by participants.
- Reprezent FM is a youth-led radio station, a platform for people aged between 13 – 25 to discuss music, culture and other issues that matter to them, and learning a huge range of practical and personal skills along the way
- Matt McStravick is the founder of the peer marketplace Echo, founding director of Sharing Economy UK and 2016 Clore Social Fellow. He’s drawing from these diverse experiences of peer-learning and exchange to explore the ways in which such approaches can foster empathic connections between people, and help to promote personal wellbeing.
- R CITY (‘R’ City Integrating Through Youth) is a project collaboration between Ardoyne Youth Club and the Hammer Youth Club in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Their young people are leading change in their communities by supporting each other’s growth, development and learning.
- Trade School South London is a self-organised school that runs on barter. It provides opportunities for anyone to teach their skills or knowledge to others in their community, and creates space for connection and learning within the fast pace of London life.
Throughout the day there were a number of themes that featured strongly:
- the importance of leadership that is driven by genuine passion and a generosity towards others, and which can shift between individuals rather than being established as a fixed hierarchy;
- the potential to foster empathy and a sense of community through collaborative peer-learning;
- and the huge significance of informal interaction as part of the trust-building and learning experience (the ‘magic’ that happens during breaks from structured activities).
We also recognise that there are many community-based projects who are already experienced practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborative approaches, but without necessarily identifying their methods in this way. This raises important questions about the extent to which they are being recognised and supported to undertake this work, and whether the range of holistic outcomes that they enable for individuals and communities are as well-documented as the specific outputs or metrics, which are the ‘product’ of the process.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Share to Know and the partnership’s experiences of peer-learning, you can download a copy of the programme report – a short guide that aims to support educators (and others working with young people) to develop their use of peer-to-peer methods.
Also take a look at this fantastic visual summary of the event from More than Minutes:
The Share to Know partnership have produced a summary guide and full project report from the exchange process. Please feel free to download and share.
The Share to Know partnership are hosting a free learning event on Friday 10th Feb in London, at Body and Soul charity. The day will be an exciting opportunity to bring together a diverse range of practitioners with an interest in peer-to-peer and collaborative learning methods, to share insights from the partnership’s exchange process and discuss how the use of these methods can be further developed and sustained.
We invite you to come along to this event to:
- Learn about peer-to-peer learning methods and how they can be used (topics explored by the Share to Know partnership include core principles of peer-to-peer learning, evaluation practices and business models)
- Meet other innovative youth and education practitioners who are using peer-to-peer and collaborative learning methods
- Explore further opportunities for partnership and collaboration within the field
In addition to the Share to Know partnership, we will be welcoming guest contributors who are successfully using peer-to-peer learning methods in their own work
For more information or to sign up to attend, please visit our event page.
Louise has worked on The U at The Young Foundation
How do you define peer-to-peer-education and learning? There are 2 principles that define peer-to-peer learning for me: a fluid relationship between the role of the ‘teacher’ and the role of the ‘learner’, and a shared identity or experience that is recognised (amongst the people who are exchanging information or skills). I think that peer-to-peer learning can happen formally or informally and in many different ways or situations, whereas peer-to-peer education is a more structured process.
What are your experiences with p2p education? My main experience of peer-to-peer education is through The U, a community learning project. The U shares practical skills (such as basic first aid, managing everyday conflict or maintaining personal wellbeing) in a way that builds on participants’ own knowledge and experience. People take part in a series of activities that are driven by exchange and conversation between those who are participating. The activities are guided by a volunteer facilitator who has been trained in delivering the session, but who isn’t a ‘teacher’ in any formal sense – the learning comes collectively from everybody in the room. The facilitator of the session is also a member of the same community as the others who are participating (this might be a geographical community, or a community of interest). I’ve taken part in The U both as a participant in the sessions and also as a facilitator.
What would you say is the biggest benefit/advantage of p2p-education? Peer-to-peer education can break down traditional preconceptions about who has valuable information, skills or experience that is worth sharing. It values the insights and experience that we all have, but also recognises that these have been shaped by our identities and the communities we belong to. In this way, peer-to-peer education challenges the teacher/learner power dynamic that exists in traditional education environments, and can open up opportunities for learning that are more collaborative and holistic. I think that peer-to-peer education also has the potential to offer a more meaningful learning experience because it is based on relatability and mutual exchange.
What are the limits of p2p-education? Currently – recognition and validation. There are few formal education environments where peer-to-peer models are genuinely developed or integrated alongside other types of learning. I also think that a challenge (more than a limit) for peer-to-peer education is how it can be developed in a way that also values and accommodates diversity of perspectives, and difference.
What, in your opinion, are the requirements of individual learners and teachers for p2p-education and learning to be successful? I think that there needs to be a ‘safe space’ for the learning to happen – that the environment and the situation must enable participants to feel confident and able to contribute (this might include physical factors like where the learning is taking place, as well as the atmosphere or the expectations that are set by people who are ‘teaching’/facilitating.) I also think that ‘teachers’ or facilitators of peer-to-peer education must be open-minded about their role, and not try to maintain control over the exchange between participants.
Florian teaches music production at Street College
How do you define p2p education? P2p learning is all about the teachers meeting their students eye-height, or at the same level. This means that the teachers do not see their students as devoid of knowledge but instead willing to learn from the way the students approach a new subject and brings their existing knowledge into the process. A p2p learning situation can also happen between students. Where one student has deficits or questions in one area, another one can help out and vice versa like a “fair trade information exchange”.
What would you see as the difference between p2p learning and p2p education? If there is one, how would you describe it? I do not see much of a difference there. The borders are rather flexible. The only minor difference is maybe that p2p education does require the teachers to be ready to meet the students as equals, which can be challenging. For the students this should not be such a big challenge.
What are your experiences with p2p learning? I have experienced how students can get each other into the “flow” by sharing their knowledge, experience and information. In this way they learned in just a couple of hours what they had not been able to learn or retain over days. I myself learn most effectively, when I explain to others what I just learned or when I have to tell someone else, who does not about the topic yet, what it is all about. Only after such an experience, do you retain the information for the long-term.
As a teacher I try to see with my students eye-to-eye and I experience that I get treated differently than teachers to “preach from above”. I learn more about the students and can adapt my learning sessions accordingly. I know how they process information and which pedagogical methods are effective with them, helps me make my work better.
What is the biggest benefit from p2p education? Effective use of the resources of both teachers and students in a positive atmosphere.
What are the limits of p2p education? Ignorance, egoism, narcicism, arrogance. You can learn anything via p2p learning that is being offered in universities.
What do you think is necessary for successful p2p education to happen? A relaxed atmosphere, free from fixed structures regarding seating arrangement or curriculum. Teachers and lecturers who are open for this method and students who know what they want to learn.
Anna is a project manager at Alma Folkhögskola.
How do you define peer-to-peer-education and learning? A democratic and practical learning method individuals to individuals
What are your experiences with p2p education? I have experience as a participant, teacher, strategic planner and observer. It is a great method as everyone is included and it strengthen not only the knowledge of a new subject, but also the self-confidence. It is short sessions which make it easy to attend and you are concentrated all the time.
What would you say is the biggest benefit/advantage of p2p education? Everyone can perform it.
What are the limits of p2p-education? Not widely recognised as a method.
What, in your opinion, are the requirements of individual learners and teachers for p2p-education and learning to be successful? (this question is focused on what the facilitators, teachers and enablers of p2p education need to make p2p learning processes possible). Open mind, willing to learn and be involved in the process, you need to share ideas and opinions. A democratic sphere.
One of the students in SMF/Sluss read and made a book report on a novel which dealt with the situation of women in Morocco. We have had a lot of talks about that and it felt a good thing to plan a project with the students to get to know some history and local history since the famous feminist author Fredrica Bremer lived in the area in the 19th century.
We used an article from Allt om Historia 9/2012 called FredrikaBremer1801-1865 En tidig kämpe för kvinnors rätt as a starting point. The students read the article, made sure that they understood the text really well. They looked up difficult words and then they wrote a summary with about 150 – 200 words. Important to notice is that every step in the process was work in pairs or small groups. They read each other´s texts and asked questions, and suggested improvements. The teacher checked the final version and printed them. All texts were displayed on the whiteboard.
The following week we went to Årsta Slott, the castle were Fredrika Bremer spent almost all of her life. The castle is situated just half an hour from the school, but not one of our students had been there before. It is a lovely place with a golf course and a restaurant, and beautiful surroundings. We were met by a local guide and she took as through the castle and the history of the place. The students had prepared questions so that they dared to speak to the guide and it became a dialogue.
The student assignment was to take a photo for an exhibition, and to write a short text. The small exhibition was to prepare a group of students who will visit Årsta Slott in May. This student group is new in Sweden and they are not speaking so much Swedish yet.
Back in school the students put together the exhibition and presented it for the other group. They did a really good job, and the students were really pleased with their achievements.
Most of the students in the group need a lot of positive feedback, from teachers, from their peers and from other students.
This post was written by Elsie Silver, a teacher at Alma Folkhögskola in Sweden.
Radhika is Director of The U at The Young Foundation.
How do you define peer-to-peer-education and learning? I define peer-to-peer as learning that is learner-led, where the people in the room share the learning. It presumes that everyone in the room has something to contribute. It is easiest for me to think about What p2p is not: it is not having a teacher directing all the learning and students taking it all in; the students are NOT empty vessels, waiting for knowledge/skills to be poured in.
What are your experiences with p2p education? (here you can describe your experiences as a participant, as well as a teacher, enabler or observer) I have experienced p2p as a learner and an observer. As a learner, I have found it a rich experience – learning from other practitioners has been hugely valuable, and often more valuable than the learning from the ‘teacher’. As an observer I have seen that many people get more involved in the lesson because of the style of delivery. Their confidence appears to increase. I have also noted that a few people seem to prefer a more traditional approach – they repeatedly look to the facilitator to lead the session and find the peer-to-peer approach frustrating – they want an ‘expert’ to be in charge.
What would you say is the biggest benefit/advantage of p2p-education? Engagement, especially for people who may have had a difficult experience of traditional education. This style of learning builds learners confidence in their own knowledge. I think p2p approaches mean these learners are more likely to stay involved in the learning and therefore experience the satisfaction of competence, which means they are more likely to try out other types of learning too.
What are the limits of p2p-education? Some skills/knowledge need specialist knowledge and are not suited to p2p. I dont want to go to a dentist who has learned her skill through p2p – I want to be sure my dentist has had specialist training! People who think of themselves as ‘successful learners’, people who have experienced success through traditional teaching methods, may find this approach challenging. Which is why I believe p2p is most appropriate for people who are sometimes called reluctant learners.
What, in your opinion, are the requirements of individual learners and teachers for p2p-education and learning to be successful? (this question is focused on what the facilitators, teachers and enablers of p2p-education need to make p2p-learning processes possible) Learners need to be open and have some trust in the group. This means that the facilitator needs to frame the learning with team-building, trust-building activities. The facilitator must be highly-encouraging, and have a strong belief that everyone has something to contribute. If the facilitator lacks deep respect for the learners, p2p will be less effective – learners cannot have confidence in the group if the facilitator does not have confidence in the group.
Joe is a Social Worker at Street College, Gangway.
How do you define p2p education? p2p education is at the heart of our work. We understand this to mean that for a learning experience to be successful for all involved, all the actors should be “close together”. Being “close together” in this case can refer to age, subculture, language, gender, religion. Our aim is to be close to the people we are trying to reach, in order to pave the way for an intense and constructive collaboration. Equally important are the mutual relationships of learning and teaching, which mean that both “students” and “peer-teachers” always teach and learn with and from another. They key for the success of this type of learning depends not only on the engagement of the target group but also already the preparation and the acceptance of their role by the peer-teachers is a very important element and already a goal in itself.
What are your experiences with p2p learning? What are the biggest benefits? Many of the workshops are passed on to previous students after a while. They become peer teachers who pass on their accumulated knowledge to groups or other individual students. Because of their age, the peer teachers have a very direct connection to the students. Shared language (slang, body language, rituals), shared life experiences and cultural identities play a major role in this identification. My experience has been that this “proximity” of peer teachers with the students makes the access to the students easier and makes it possible to talk about certain topics that would otherwise be off limits.
What are the limits of p2p education? p2p education approaches can be applied in an academic/school context, but the existing institutional structures make it hard to make it a focus of mainstream education. Professional teachers, having to teach a number of different subjects, are rarely able to establish such a personal rapport with their students such as peer-teachers. In order to still establish p2p education approaches in mainstream education settings, it is recommended to support the close collaboration between educational institutions and professionals from the different fields, who are interested in sharing their knowledge with the students.