Collaborative learning and the peer to peer jungle

Over the past 12 months the Share to Know partners have been working together to develop a deeper understanding of what peer to peer learning is, how it can be applied in different contexts (relating to both cultural differences and the variations in educational setting), and what kind of positive outcomes can be expected from peer to peer learning compared to other learning methodologies.

In addition to prototyping each other’s approaches towards key aspects of peer to peer learning (such as the educational methods that can be used, engaging with young people and engaging with employers and formal education providers) we have been developing an understanding of ‘peer to peer’ learning which is clearly defined yet also flexible enough to accommodate the many different contexts that it can operate in.

Tanja Ries (of Share to Know partner organisation Street College, Berlin) has written a research paper that explores the ways that peer to peer and other collaborative learning processes are an appropriate response to 21st Century needs. This paper begins with an overview of different models of peer to peer learning, before moving on to explore how ‘collaborative learning’ can encompass the core principles of peer to peer learning without demanding restrictive criteria for participation, before finally assessing the ways in which collaborative learning provides opportunities to meet needs presented by the 21st Century.

This paper (building on discussion during transnational meetings) provides the basis for the Share to Know partnership’s definition and understanding of peer to peer learning and can be downloaded here in English and German (soon to be uploaded) ​

Trying out p2p methods with the Study Motivated Folk High School course, Sweden

In the morning of 10th of November 2015, facilitator Tomas goes in to the class of SMF.  Many are young and not older then 24 years old. After months of method development within the EU-project P2P, together with Street College and The Young foundation, Alma is now testing these methods with young people who have dropped out of school but who have returned to try a new approach at the Folk High School.

In the back, Tomas has the method of Young Foundation of short sessions and at the same time the Street Colleges way of meeting the youth where they are, in their feelings. However, Alma has twisted it a bit by structuring many short sessions which work as a ‘red thread’ throughout the SMF’s time at Alma Folk High School. The class on the 10th of November starts with discussing the differences between feelings and actions. One of the participant says: ”To get angry is not difficult, the hard part is to get angry at the right moment and in the right way”. Tomas writes up all reflections and comments on the white board. This is good for the group to see the different reflections, and to think about it. After this Tomas asks the group to talk about the concepts: Thought – Action – Consequence. He leaves the participants to discuss it between themselves; it is important that everyone will be heard. The youths seems quite excited, they are involved in the discussions and everyone really has something to say.

Thereafter Tomas asks everyone in the group to reconstruct, exemplify and discuss around a real-situation scenario:

What brought out the conflict?

What did I do?

What did someone else do?

What was the consequence?

This is a method in order to get the participants to discuss solutions together and reflect upon the conflicts. After a short break the group continues with the concepts of Thought, Action and Consequences. In this session the facilitator comes up with a solution for the participants, how they can think in a situation when anger triggers. As an example Tomas says:

  • Breathe calm and deep
  • Count backwards
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Think about he consequences

At the end of the class the participants and the facilitator says one thing which was good during the session and one thing that oneself has done well during the session. This is important in order to highlight that the participant has taken part in the session and also strengthen their self-confidence and self-esteem.

One participant said that the best thing was to see how other people thinks in a conflict. Another participant thought the tools in order to stop a possible conflict was valuable. The same person also said that he thought he brought a lot to the class during the session, and that was good. Tomas said that he thought that the good part was that the class shared their feelings and this helped the class forward.

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What do you mean by ‘peer to peer learning’?

It isn’t surprising that the first thing most people ask about this programme is – “what do you actually mean by ‘peer to peer’?” The Share to Know programme is interested in testing out different approaches towards informal learning (particularly peer to peer methods), with the aim of sharing our experience of what works to other European practitioners in the youth and education field. Clearly, how we define ‘peer to peer’ is at the heart of matter! Read More

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What are the benefits?

So why bother with peer to peer learning? The team working on Share to Know have a diverse range of backgrounds and interests that span the Arts, youth and community work, psychology, management, design and human rights. What we share is a belief that creating informal and mutual learning opportunities is an essential part of ensuring that all young people are able to pursue the employment or vocation that builds on their strengths, and encourages them to grow – no matter what their background is.  Read More

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What are the limitations?

We recognise that peer to peer learning is only one of many different approaches to informal learning. Through the Share to Know programme we hope to identify and address some of the challenges that face youth and educational practitioners who may want to adopt peer to peer methodologies, and also to recognise what the limitations of this approach are. Read More


Alma Folk High School is member of the Swedish Folk High School Association and has three main pillars: folk high school, projects and commissioned work. Read More

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The Project

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.