When you enter any Reggio classroom, especially one with younger students, you will be surrounded by very natural and spontaneous peer learning. Most learning occurs peer-to-peer in a reciprocal manner, and research across the board has shown that young children retain more of their learning when that learning comes from their peer interactions.
Over the past several weeks, we have introduced a more structured form of peer learning and we have transitioned into true peer teaching through Workshop Wednesdays in our Pre-K/Kindergarten classroom. Student led workshops are not new to The Innovation School - our 1st-8th grade students have been engaging in these workshops regularly. When we saw how much our Kindergarten students enjoyed participating in Workshop Wednesdays with “the big kids”, we saw it as a leadership opportunity for them!
Initially, we decided to form workshops led by our Kindergarten students. Our preschoolers loved our first “test run” of workshops and our Kindergarten students thrived from the stretch in their leadership skills. Each student leading a workshop was able to choose an activity to create based off their strengths and interests. This process produced true buy-in and provided a palpable excitement and clear engagement in our classroom! It also gave a different perspective as a teacher, to be an observer witnessing meaningful growth within each workshop.
Each week, our preschoolers began showing more and more interest in leading workshops - “when will it be my turn?” they often asked. After some discussion with our Kindergarten students, we all agreed that the preschoolers in our classroom would begin teaching workshops as well. During our first preschool led workshop, it was wonderful to see how our Kindergarten students were so eager to learn from their younger peers - rarely overstepping boundaries or trying to take the lead. Our students have gained such a sense of respect for their peers through peer teaching workshops - they know how good it feels to be listened to when they are leading, so they check (and double check!) to make sure they listen to their peers and carefully follow instructions when they are in a workshop led by a peer.
We are excited to work through giving every child in our class an opportunity to lead a workshop. David Boud, at Stanford University stated: “Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning.” These are all of the benefits we have witnessed (and more!) as we have explored more structured peer teaching in our classroom. Feedback may be one of the most important benefits, as we have seen workshops become more refined and more meaningful, as the depth of each activity has increased. It truly seems that each week, the class enjoys each new set of workshops more than the last as we build upon our past workshop experiences!
We are excited to continue our Wednesday Workshops and provide additional peer teaching opportunities within our classroom - it has been a very positive, inspiring and transformative experience so far!
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” – Margaret Fuller