How to be involved in peer teachingBMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6897 (Published 22 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:l6897
- 1Acute internal medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, London
- 2Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London
In peer teaching, learners are taught by those similar in age or at a similar educational stage. Many peer teaching programmes in medical school involve junior students being taught by senior students.1 Some evidence suggests that the closer learners are in training stage to their teacher, the better the learning outcomes.2 This might be because peers have better ideas of the relative importance of different topics.3 Students also say that peer teaching enables them to direct their own education.4
Peer teaching doesn’t just help learners—teachers can benefit too.45 It provides an opportunity for revision and furthering knowledge. Developing ways to explain challenging concepts to peers promotes effective communication skills, which are essential for working in teams and with patients.
This article provides some tips on how to set up a peer teaching initiative on the basis of the authors’ experiences.
Where do peers teach?
Small group bedside teaching
This type of teaching can be coordinated formally within a whole year group, or ad hoc by a group of students on placement. It is particularly useful preparation for OSCEs (objective structured clinical examinations) and is most effective in groups of three to five. Students take turns in playing the roles of examiner and candidate.
You can coordinate revision lectures to a whole year group, and involve different societies. For example, asking members of the cardiology society to organise revision lectures in their specialty.
These are interactive small group tutorials that follow on from lectures, while questions are fresh in students’ minds. These tutorials promote discussion and deepen understanding.
Students write a set of multiple choice or extended matching questions and quiz each other on cases or topics they have encountered in the past week.
Lunch and learn programme—Rebecca’s experience of setting up a peer teaching programme
When I was a medical student some of the most valuable teaching I received was from junior doctors. The closeness in age and training stage gave an element of informality, which allowed me to be open about the difficulties I was experiencing and to ask questions. This experience sparked my interest in medical education. As a result, I became a bedside teaching tutor during medical school and developed the “lunch and learn” peer teaching initiative in foundation year 1. This was a weekly educational programme, which consisted of junior doctors teaching other junior doctors and medical students.
Planning the programme
After gaining approval from the educational lead for medicine, I planned a programme with a multidisciplinary team including junior doctors, administrative staff, and the postgraduate education manager. I surveyed the doctors using online polls, sent out emails, and asked my fellow colleagues to establish the topics they wanted to learn about and which ones they felt confident teaching. I set up a schedule and chose a time slot to suit the majority. I booked rooms at least a month ahead. Lastly, I sent weekly email reminders to the group.
Attendance increased each week and I had to book a larger room. The programme’s success was attributed to the excellent use of time and the informal setting in which participants felt they could ask questions and truly develop an understanding of the topic being discussed. Learners found these sessions “useful, friendly, and well organised.”
Impact on clinical practice
The project fostered a learning culture and good rapport among the junior doctors, and hopefully the sharing of knowledge and skills improved patient care.
Tips for peer teaching
Planning is key
Once you have a plan, pitch the idea to a senior—for example, your supervising consultant on a placement or a teaching fellow. Ask him or her for advice on how to get required permission, teach content, and recruit suitable teachers. These colleagues are also useful sources of information about practical administrative matters such as timetabling, organising facilitators, and booking venues. You could work alone or set up a committee.
Planning the teaching rota in advance allows time for preparation and troubleshooting. Securing a teaching venue can be challenging; once the time is confirmed, consider block booking a venue. To minimise technology issues, ensure projectors and laptops are working before each session. You could appoint a chairperson who ensures the session stays on course. Prepare feedback and attendance forms.
Selection of teachers and provision of training
Some peer teachers may not have had formal teaching training; some might be anxious or apprehensive and their self esteem might be affected when assumptions are challenged while teaching.
To mitigate the risk of factual inaccuracy, seniors can help by checking the teaching material. Your faculty might provide teacher training—for example, workshops run by the educational development unit.
Promoting the event
Ask your group how they prefer to be updated about the sessions—for example, by a WhatsApp group.
Having a plan B
Given the busy schedule of medical students and junior doctors, peer teachers might cancel at the last minute. Be prepared for this with, for example, a presentation of photos for spot diagnosis exercises, as these can promote discussion and information sharing between learners.
Ask your medical school for teaching certificates. Teaching fellows could award prizes for best teacher or best participant. For junior doctors the teaching sessions might count towards their ARCP (annual review of competency progression) and increase their application scores for post-foundation training.
Getting feedback and ensuring sustainability
Make full use of feedback forms by evaluating and incorporating the suggestions in a timely manner. Feedback forms that ask for suggestions for future topics encourage engagement with, and ownership of, the project. Showing that you value the group’s input—for example, by acting on requests for time and venue changes, is key to the longevity of your peer teaching initiative.
Applying for funding
Funding for the administrative tasks and refreshments helps ensure sustainability and allows you to focus on the educational side of your initiative. You could look for grants given by your university or explore resources provided by educational societies, such as the Association for the Study of Medical Education. Learning to apply for funding is also particularly useful for those pursuing an academic route.
Suitability of topic
Peer led teaching is less suitable if teaching is based on skills that require assessment by more qualified educators—for example, emergency simulation and procedural skills acquisition.6
We thank Louise McCusker, Georgios Karagiannis, and the junior doctors in Hillingdon Hospital (2017-18) without whose support Lunch and Learn would not exist.
Competing interests: None declared.