Peer Teaching: A spirit of Bayanihan

From the onset of American colonial rule and their design of a democratic society, wherein one could get ahead through good educational attainment, the Filipinos have established a deep regard for education. Most of us are positive that education is a primary avenue for an upward social and economic mobility. There is no wonder in why parents from the distinct social statuses would convince their children with the world’s old formulated principle, “Go to school, get high grades, and eventually, you’ll get a job.”

For the longest time, this principle has been followed by the youth to the letter. We go to school and get high grades with the undying hope that graduating college is a special ticket to employment and triumph. But that aged guiding standard has long been tarnished. For our generation, education (or ‘schooling’) is not enough of a guarantee that we’ll hit the jackpot prize and feed our empty stomachs.

In us exists the fear of becoming poorly paid college degree holders who ended up with jobs they never imagined they would take, or worse, are jobless. Indeed, the society has evolved in ways we never expected and so has its inhabitants. Maybe it’s time we do a twist and set a new trend, a new guiding principle. We’ve been reluctantly waiting as mere passive recipients of an already set education when we can in fact be a dynamic player in our educational system.

Difficult it may be to hear, the best course today sounds exactly like, “Don’t just go to school; build the school. Don’t just get good grades; share good grades. Don’t just get a job; work while you study.”

Each one teach one

For the past years, we’ve been neglecting students as potential instructional resources, especially in higher education. Most students are either oblivious or unreceptive to the idea that they can also be instruments of teaching to fellow students. But after an upshot of maturity, these young people have already gained the reliance and the momentum in contributing to our instructive processes.

Although the term “Peer Teaching” is self-evident and straightforward, it holds a lot of intricacies. Generally, the phrase refers to the range of initiatives where people from the same age group, background and culture educate each other about varieties of issues. Also known as “Cross-age Tutoring” and “Youth Tutoring Youth”, the process has been proven to be an effective approach that empowers the students to work with each other and draw in the positivity within a peer group and diminish the usual negative impression on what peers influence. Peer Teaching normally takes place over a comprehensive period, as opposed to a one-time event in schools, parks, bars, social clubs, churches, work settings, and markets—any place where young people spend time together. It typically grants continuing sessions, which encourage young people to build skills, change risky behaviors, and do more than unlearned information sharing.

Historically, peer tutoring has existed since we have had schools accessible to the population or probably even since the start of civilization. But the first recorded systematic peer teaching project didn’t come not until the late 1700’s. It was credited to Andrew Bell, the superintendent of the Military Male Asylum at Egmore, England, who was enticed by the idea of sharing education to children who would otherwise not receive it, often due to their families’ social status. Peer teaching then serves as a pavement for the underprivileged children to have a fair shot at education along with the school budget woes during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

As students, we, like Bell in our almost cataleptic state, also have that strange and persistent motivation as to why we started working with our friends as special teachers. Peer teaching did not evolve in a large vacuum cleaner or in an egg shell. It happened on an ordinary day while you were sitting with your friend at the school bench, and you suddenly found yourself in grave need but simultaneously capable of providing her your familiarity about Algebra, Physics, or a disease spread in your community. Time passed and you’re barely aware that more and more of your friends are joining in on the discussion, which made you feel a quiet satisfaction. After that first instant, this class activity becomes customary, almost like jamming even.

Maybe the impetus to be an instrument of something better is innate in every person despite our lingering insecurity that our riches may not be enough to make a change. It may be too ideal to suppose that every person could have an associated task in the school or even in the community aside from just waiting for the spoon to be filled and let someone feed you up. However, with sharing our knowledge, we are closer to education. As Mark Twain popularly said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Schooling is what we do when we sit in our classrooms, listen to our teachers, take the exam and pass it. But education, which we believe is the way to success, is different from simple schooling in that it does not rate or restrict our abilities or intellect to the unsatisfying red marks we leave at our desks. Education evolves and matures with us as long as we seek it.

Zooming in the plate

Here in CSU, peer teaching is not an alien life form. As enrollees of the only university in Catanduanes, the students of this institution are more likely to be isolated from their families who are left in their towns yonder. Their personal relationships with the faculty (if it exists) are also distant. Hence, students would naturally seek their peers when certain circumstances or even problems arise. Researches reveal that professors have little effect on the students. Instead, reference groups serve as the most important source of influence to a student (Newcomb, 1974).

Relating to this, the typical student’s sentiments are,

“Minsan dai na ako gadangog sa Prof mi. Mapatutulo na sana ako sa alisto kong barkada. Sainya pano, dai an matunong hanggang dai mo ma gets. Pupukpukon ka pati kaan pag ga pinatal ka. Dai ka pero masupog sainya maski paulu-utrohon mo. Pero pag si prof, mahapot an ning ‘Are there any questions?’ Dai pa ngani nag simbag su mga estudyante, matalam na an ning, ‘Okay, let’s proceed to the next topic.’ Sabay mabura ning writings sa blackboard habang mahapot ning, ‘Mabilis ba tayo?’”

On the other hand, a student who is usually asked to help his peers said in an interview,

“Magayon kapag yatutul’an ko ang barkada ko o kaya ga group study kami. Nakatuwang ka na, natutuwangan ka pa. Nama-master ko ugod ang mga concepts habang gatutulo ako. Magayon sa feeling na may nakamatid saimo.”

Higher education research (Whitman, 1988) on peer teaching indicates that not only the peer learner but also the peer teacher experiences significant gains in learning as a result of their collaborative interaction. Both parties are benefited and learned. For the students being helped, the assistance from their peers enabled them to gain more opportunities to enhance their learning. For the students giving help, the cooperative learning group serves as a way for a greater mastery on the course content. With this, peer teaching functions as a warm haven to nest mutually constructive relationships among students instead of locked cell of tight competition, where fed-up Filipinos cry, “Matira ang matibay.”

Although we are not yet past the ineffectiveness of our educational system and its appeal on our desperate student population, peer teaching elevates the definition of education. While we have not improved by our government budget for education or reliable facilities, we have departed ourselves from our sturdy dependence on our teachers and our schools. With our friends, we are not only concerned about our own grades but everyone’s progress. We are not just students but workers. In a way, we are building our own schools—ones that would render much time attending to the concerns of its students; and ones that would eventually rouse the “awakener” in us that upholds social responsibility as the way of survival in the wake of every adversity.

Kathleen M. Arcilla


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