In the summer term of 2019 my students started the IPC unit AD 900 in which they were expected to learn about ancient non-European civilisations. The IPC suggested looking at the Mayans, Benin and Early Islamic civilisations. After reflecting on where my students were at in their learning journey, the cultural makeup of the class and the range of the students prior experiences I decided that it was important for the students to develop a better understanding of these three important cultures and in the process have their preconceptions challenged. However, I was also mindful of honouring the students agency and therefore they were encouraged to inquire into an ancient civilisation of their choice for their home learning project.
When planning this unit, I also assessed that it was more important for my students to learn about one of these cultures in more depth and in the process develop their inquiry and communication skills rather than have a more shallow knowledge of all three cultures. Therefore, I planned for the students to undergo a controlled inquiry (thank you to @trev_mackenzie for the graphic that helped me with this!) using books I had ordered for my class alongside a reading list I created on Epic! books with the expected outcome that the students could teach each other about the different cultures and design an assessment to analyse how successful an impact they had on their peers learning.A plan showing how I mapped out the unit can be found here. A copy of the reading list I created can be found here.
What I found out
- The timeline activity was fascinating, it highlighted to me again that you cannot take for granted what students already know. There were important events in history which I thought my students would be aware of, like when man first landed on the moon, which they had no prior knowledge of.
- Most groups were able to delegate questions fairly among their peers without adult support. Only those students who have greater social and emotional needs needed help with this.
- The sorting out phase was perhaps the most important part of the process. It helped highlight groups who were flying with their research and needed extending and those students who needed to work with me in a focus group using a structured inquiry approach.
- Practising the slide show and presenting it to an adult as part of the practise was an essential element in ensuring good quality peer-to-peer teaching.
- Having the students design their own assessment and marking criteria for the peers they were going to teach helped them to focus more on communicating their learning in a clear and easy to understand fashion.
Students took turns to teach each other about the ancient civilisation they investigated.
Through careful planning, resourcing and providing ample time for students to practise they were all able to successfully teach their peers and the students walked away from the unit with a deeper understanding of one culture and a good understanding of the other two cultures.
A copy of one of the student designed assessments. The students not only created the questions but devised their own mark schemes which they used to check their peers knowledge.
The student designed assessments were a different but equally insightful way of assessing learning and it is an approach I will continue to use in future. It was also great to see the skills developed in class run over into the students own personal home learning projects. They shared the outcomes of their individual inquiries in our Exit Point and they were of an equally high standard whilst also being completely the students own work.
What are your experiences of using peer-to-peer teaching? What strategies have you found that have been successful in supporting your students undertake this type of task? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.