Peer facilitation is an active learning technique that is often found on college campuses. During this setup, a group of students works together on a problem set, lab, discussion, or other challenging problem. This group, which is usually a small group of less than ten students, is not led or taught by an instructor, but rather facilitated by a peer. The peer facilitator does not lecture, present, or even deliberately teach; instead, he or she guides the group through the workshop. This method can benefit students in several different ways.
- Increased participation
Having a student lead a workshop will increase participation all around, as the other students will be more motivated to contribute. The setup of the peer facilitation class is geared towards teamwork and problem solving, rather than note taking and listening to a lecture.
Rotating which student is the peer facilitator provides each student the chance to improve his or her leadership capabilities.
- Active learning
Students are actively involved in their learning, as they must be the ones to find the answer by working through the questions. In traditional methods of instruction, the teacher provides the answers or works examples in class, while in peer facilitation, the peer facilitator does not provide the answers but guides the group.
- Problem solving skills
Learning in this manner provides students with additional problem solving skills that they might not otherwise develop from a more traditional, lecture-based class format. Additionally, the peer facilitator will develop a new set of leadership and problem solving skills, as he or she must direct questions back to the group, avoid giving answers directly, and avoid too much explaining. Instead, the peer facilitator should be helping the other students figure things out on their own.
The value of peer facilitation is gradually becoming recognized as more and more institutions begin implementing this technique.