Near-peer teaching for supporting taxonomy skills
Wendy Harris Senior Lecturer
College of Science
Practical work is key component of our Biosciences programme, the inclusion of experiential learning leading to better performance. Hands-on experience promotes deeper level learning through the development of subject-specific theory and techniques, while also encouraging personal development. Experiential learning provides opportunities for much-needed taxonomy training, as emphasised by The Royal Society of Biology and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. Pedagogic theory behind peer teaching and learning has been well researched and shown to be successful for improving student confidence, as well as demonstrating some wider benefits such as encouraging a partnership between student cohorts. For the past three years, I have organised a peer teaching/learning opportunity in a year 2 invertebrate taxonomy practical class by inviting the previous year’s students into the class. I used a structured questionnaire to collect feedback from year 2 and year 3 students each year, asking them to rate aspects of the class as well as their interactions with each other. There was also opportunity to include free text feedback. Students were very positive about the practical class overall, and both year 2 and year 3 students reported the experience as a constructive one, with an association of positive words chosen to describe the experience. Students also identified aspects of the practical class they thought would improve the experience, some of which I was able to include in subsequent years. Students who had been learners and were now teachers were able to use their experience to constructively assist year 2 students, and were able to report how changes in the class structure had been useful. An unexpected outcome from the experience was that student cohorts using a higher percentage of positive words were less likely to offer to help the following year. I discuss the potential reasons and effects of this, alongside the general experience and impact of feedback on future interactions and engagements.
This will be a straightforward presentation with some interactive engagement built around personal consideration for peer learning/teaching opportunities within audience’s specific fields, as well as consideration of the experiences of those who have previously used peer teaching/learning methods. The interest in this session in the ease in which peer teaching and learning can be integrated into our own teaching for valuable results in both student experience and teaching staff reflection. I would like to investigate whether there is an opportunity to set up a peer-teaching group across the university as a means of sharing ideas and outcomes, and reporting best practice.
Near peer teaching/learning, student engagement, taxonomy skills, invertebrate identification
- Near-peer teaching opportunities are straightforward to arrange
- Teachers and learners both reported positive experiences
- There are progressive learning opportunities as learners become teachers