Peer-to-peer learning: a way to develop medical students’ trainings

doctor peer

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Mouad Moutaoukil, a fourth year student in the Faculty of medicine and pharmacy of
Fez and a member of IFMSA-Morocco. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


One of the biggest problems that medical students face during their trainings at University hospitals is the lack of mentoring and educational guidance. This is mainly due to the large responsibilities of professors towards patients and faculties. While being guided by seniors cannot be replaced for medical trainees, there are some alternatives to lessen the burden of our professors’ and seniors’ shoulders. In this article, we will discuss one of these solutions: peer-to-peer learning.

Peer-to-peer learning or peer learning is defined as a practice in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals. Peer refers to a person with a comparable or slightly higher level of knowledge and experience to the learner, in the case of medical students, a peer can be an older medical student, or a freshman resident.

Peer learning can be utilized in multiple situations from teaching fundamental knowledge and critical thinking to helping students deal with various situations with patients.

Passing knowledge during the trainings can be more effective if it’s done by peers. The students, either on the giving or the receiving side, will definitely be more knowledgeable about the subjects discussed within the group. In fact, both groups (peers and students) learn and benefit from the interaction. The peers gain experience in communication and leadership, reinforcing their prior learning and discovering what they are capable of achieving in the mentoring/teaching fields. On the other hand, students gain confidence and experience a decrease in anxiety when dealing with certain situations such as clinical placements.

In the practical side, peer learning can improve integration into the ward situations and students’ confidence when dealing with patients, since it encourages independent studying, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. It also gives students a sense of autonomy when they accept responsibility for their own training.

Furthermore, peer learning can be utilized to pass information to large groups of students with less faculty members’ involvement. At a time when there is pressure to train more doctors and minimize costs, peer learning could utilize resources more effectively with students teaching and supervising junior students, thus decreasing the demand on the responsible faculty members.

Another advantage of peer-to-peer learning is that it’s not only practically effective, but it also pushes many key buttons for behavioral change. In fact, it has many other positive effects such as inspiring and encouraging debate, celebrating innovation, and building confidence to think and act beyond the status quo.

Even though effective peer learning can be pivotal in changing behaviors and helping us to achieve excellence in healthcare, the need for student supervision remains important. If peers are not knowledgeable or do not have the appropriate skills, then they cannot accurately pass information onto another student. The learning of inaccurate information could potentially cause issues when these inaccuracies are demonstrated in exams or in clinical situations.

About the author

Mouad Moutaoukil is a fourth year student in the Faculty of medicine and pharmacy of
Fez and a member of IFMSA-Morocco. He is particularly interested in ways to develop
medical education since it is crucial to provide better healthcare services. He is also
passionate about mathematics and literature.

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