Promoting mutual understanding and cultural dialogue

Teaching techniques: Peer learning (Discouraging factors #1 and #2)

  • Factor # 1: Language and communication barriers
  • Factor #2: Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion 

Peer learning represents a two-way, reciprocal activity, which is meant to be mutually beneficial and involve the exchange of knowledge, ideas and experience between participants. It can be described as a way of interdependent or mutual learning based on constant interaction of educator and learner and of a learner with other learners. The interaction takes place in the form of communication, which can include signs, sounds, words, looks, phrases, stories, body contact, letters and many other specifics.

Peer learning includes different learning models, including such where more advanced students tutor junior students or students from the same year assist each other in both course content and personal issues. Other peer learning models can also be discussion seminars, private study groups, counseling, peer-assessment schemes, collaborative project work, group works, workplace mentoring and community activities.

Peer learning can be successfully applied in a language learning process, especially for developing communicative language skills and verbal practice. It is a good model for learning languages for specific purposes since it allows a personalized approach and support to languages, which lack adequate learning materials suitable for specific groups of learners.

Peer learning is suitable both in a formal educational environment and in more non-formal contexts involving volunteers with knowledge in the respective language. In this context, peer learning could be beneficial also to people from different ethno-cultural backgrounds, support migrant integration and social inclusion.

Cultural peer learning involves peers of different cultural backgrounds and it can be considered as the most efficient approach towards acquiring cultural and intercultural competences. In groups from different cultural backgrounds and with considerable language barriers, this model develops not only intercultural competences but also social competences, which are very much needed. Additionally, cultural peer learning can be used to fight the stereotypes within the learning group or the society in general. At an individual level, cultural peer learning influences emotional and soft skills and unlocks the so‐called “reciprocal vulnerability” between learners.

The cultural approach is especially useful for the low educated and/or disadvantaged people with limited access to a learning process. Cultural peer learning not only presents opportunities for learners to discuss issues but it also presents opportunities for learners to enrich their emotional intelligence, to better understand the cultural background of their peers and thus better understand their actions and motivations. Cultural approaches in combination with peer learning methods open up new possibilities to target political and social integration problems and to initiate a socio‐cultural dialogue.