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The Learning Pit and Peer Learning

I like the concept Peer Interaction and I think it is the entrance to the understanding of Peer Learning. My perception of Peer Interaction is, that every time Peers Interact there will be learning academically and/or socially.

In my work I have found, that it will make sense to combine The Learning Pit, designed and developed by James Nottingham and Challenging Learning with the exiting knowledge about Peer Interaction and Peer Learning which in many ways are congruent concepts and which are the main concepts of my work and my research.

I like the concept Peer Interaction and I think it is the entrance to the understanding of Peer Learning. My perception of Peer Interaction is, that every time Peers Interact there will be learning academically and/or socially.

Artiklen fortsætter under banneret

Peer Learning consist of Peer Tutoring, Peer Assessment and Peer Instruction. Peer Instruction is an early version of the concept (Mazur 1997) and will not be a subject in this article or the next about Peer Assessment. In this article, I will focus on Peer Tutoring and combine this with the Learning Pit, which I think is a very important contribution to the understanding of learning and especially the deeper learning.

In the work with Peer Tutoring, the students can be equal or one of the Peers can be the learner and the other one can be the one who will guide the other. I will not discuss the difference between these two ways in this article. 

Before moving through the Pit, I will mention a central definition of Peer Learning, which describes the fundament of Peer Tutoring.

Peer learning, can be defined, as the acquisition of knowledge and skill through active helping and supporting among status equals or matched companions.Professor K.J. Topping, University of Dundee 2005.

With the definition in place, we are ready to move through the Pit together.

The Concept.

After a short introduction of the concept, from the teacher, the Peers discuss the concept to understand it together. This discussion might create an understanding individual or mutual for the Peers, which is useful for their work through the Pit.

The Challenge

The Peers might be challenged at the same time or at different times. Are they challenged at the same time they can work together to define the challenge so they face the challenge or challenges together with help and support, as Topping describes. (2005). This will definitely contribute to the further process and their further work. This will lay the foundation for their struggling through the Pit together and make it easier for the Peers to help and/or support each other.

The Cognitive Conflict

Just as it was the case at the Challenge, the Peers might face the Cognitive conflict at the same time or at different times. Do the Peers face the Cognitive Conflict at the same time, they will be able to help and support each other finding answers or ways to continue. Not necessary the same answers or the same ways, but it might be their own answers and their own ways which suits their conditions and their ongoing process through the Pit. If they meet the Cognitive conflict at different times, the Peers will be able to help and support each other to work with this cognitive conflict. At the same time – and you cannot underestimate this - the Peers will naturally encourage each other to keep on going.


My point here is, that students learns through thinking, helping, supporting and through cooperation. Working together as Peers will create the best possible conditions for this. When they are constructing their understanding of the concept, when they are moving into the field of deeper learning, the Students might have greatly benefit from each other. They will be able to discuss and evaluate their constructions with their Peer (More, about evaluation, in my next article with focus on Peer Assessment.) and this will support and help them finish their construction and will make their construction, their understanding, stronger. Deeper learning will take place.


This is the end of the Pit, and the students now understand the concept and the knowledge will develop into a competence and new abilities in practice.

It is important to stress, that the process, I have described in this article are cooperative, which means, that the result requires that the way through the Pit and the process for the Peers are clearly structured by the Teacher.

Billedet er brugt med Tilladelse fra Challenging Learning, James Nottingham


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