Peer Teaching at Tertiary Level in Bangladesh

As nationals, Bangladeshi people are very eager to learn. From their childhood people look at their people and learn many things from them naturally. When they enter formal schooling environment their formal learning begins. Normally, in Bangladesh the classes are teacher centric and lecture based where the teachers are the authoritative figures. Till now, teachers play the central role in every level of education. In tertiary level as well, where the students are supposed to perform individually and engage in active learning, they attend the lecture-based classes mostly. There are various noteworthy reasons and unavoidable consequences of this tradition.

In Bangladesh, teachers are given the highest respect and due to that fact, students do not interrupt or engage himself in an argument with a teacher in a classroom. And traditionally it was perceived that students are supposed to be very quiet and disciplined. Which leads to students not asking any questions even if they do not understand anything. There is a barrier between teachers and students as a result of this conception.

When I started my career as a teacher, I noticed the same thing with my students. No matter how much flexible environment I provided them with, they will not ask any questions and only nod in the class.

During the pandemic, the aforesaid scenario became severe as the students were mentally down and it was very much needed to engage the students in the online classes. In that case, I tried to utilize the findings of my research on peer teaching to engage the students more in the class.

For the study, I selected a few students and let them be the teacher for a few classes. They would teach and evaluate their peers just as a teacher would do. I gave them proper training and materials for this role. My goal was to see how both sides work.

This study was conducted during two semesters in eight months. Students were divided into small groups consisting of five to six members. Each group took one class on Tense. In total, thirty classes were conducted by the students as peer teachers. Afterward, a survey questionnaire was facilitated to each of the participants where they recorded their individual opinion about their experience as a peer tutor as well as peer tutee. Later on, their points of view were discussed in FGD about the effectiveness of peer teaching. They also shared their experience and suggested a few things regarding its implication in the classroom. This continued for a couple of weeks and then I collected data both from the “Peer Students” and “Peer Teachers”.

Language learning requires the active participation of the learners. And in this study, we found that peer teaching is all about the active participation of the learners. The findings of this study can be discussed from two perspectives. From the peer teacher’s perspective and the peer tutee’s perspective. Apart from that, some other skills and experience gained by the participants also will be discussed. The findings of this study suggest that peer teachers were profited in many ways. Firstly, they mastered the topic before the class very well and explained it again in the class, then after the class, they looked for answers to the questions asked by the students in the class. Secondly, as peer teachers, they learned many teaching techniques and lastly, they learned to design the class keeping in mind the different levels of students. Findings also show the point of view of peer students. Peer students learned the topic better from their peer tutor and they felt more comfortable with the peer tutor than a teacher. According to them they feel hesitated before asking any question to the teacher, but as the peer tutor is their friend they feel comfortable. And also they can debate over a topic with the peer tutor which they cannot do with the teacher. All the benefits were found to be effective in this study. The observation of the course teacher also indicated that the students perform better when a peer tutor conduct the class and almost all the classes conducted but the peer tutors using different teaching techniques, methods and approaches were successful to fill up the objectives of the lesson plan and the students learned accordingly.

The data clearly showed a few things for example:

  1. Many times, students learn better from their peers than the teachers but their peers cannot explain the difficult concepts for which they need the help of an expert like teachers.
  2. The students felt more comfortable as they could ask any question without any hesitation as the peer teachers were their classmates as well as friends.
  3. They were more confident after taking the class as a peer teacher.
  4. Speaking skill improved
  5. Became more communicative and fluent with others
  6. Leadership quality was improved
  7. A sense of responsibility grew inside them as they were supposed to teach others
  8. They were inspired to learn more after the feedback of both the teacher and the students.

Apart from all these advantages of peer teaching it has some disadvantages too. Nervousness and anxiety prevailed among a small number of participants. But almost all of them confessed in FGD that after taking the class they felt better and instead of being nervous they gained a lot of self-confidence and proud of themselves. So, it is evident that the students were reinforced with better learning of the subject matter and also with very extensive social skills like public speaking, leadership build-up, eradication of fear, etc.

Peer teaching should be used in language classrooms of Bangladesh extensively to promote students’ advanced learning. But peer teachers should be trained properly before the class. Peer teaching method gives opportunity to be communicative in the class and that leads to the mastery of communicative skills. As it also has direct role in making the learners skillful in social behavior peer teaching should be embraced by the teachers, educators and policy makers.

The findings obtained from the questionnaire supplied to each participant suggest that peer teaching enhances the learner’s knowledge about the particular topic in language learning and their way of learning was refined. The findings from FGD gives clear indication towards the learners improved social skill. Peer teaching also helps the learners get rid of their anxiety and fear of public speaking. They also gain positive attitudes towards the subject matter, their peer tutors, their learning style, etc. So, the application of peer teaching can be very useful in a language classroom. But peer teachers should not be used as a substitute for teachers. Teachers should play the role of a facilitator and monitor the whole process. If the students are guided properly peer teaching in a language class can be a very useful method to learn better.

Writer’ Bio: Mst. Anta Afsana is currently working as a Lecturer (Senior Scale) in the department of English at Daffodil International University. She has pursued her higher education in Applied linguistics and English language teaching from University of Dhaka. From her educational background and experience as a language teacher she aspires to contribute in English language teaching and adult education in Bangladesh.