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The Power of Peer-to-Peer

One day, I was sitting outside - hiding from the sun under a half-constructed building that serves as the teachers' room when it gets too hot to sit between four walls - I had this passionate conversation about the impact of my programme with several of the teachers at my school, Antoa JHS. Since I started working with the impact evaluation of our peer-to-peer programmes, I constantly find myself reflecting on the impact of our model and of my work as a Programme Associate specifically, and I was therefore curious to hear more about the teachers' perspective.

Exponential Education has been tutoring the students at Antoa JHS for 2 years and Theo, the Assistant Headmaster, has been working with our Programme Associates since the very beginning. He was the one who said something that really caught my attention: according to him, what is truly the powerful and unique aspect of Expo is the change in behaviour that occurs for the students. In other words, because Expo is using a peer-to-peer model, the students learn to help each other and they now not only turn to teachers for help but also to their friends.

Emmanuel teaches divisions to his group of students at Antoa JHS.

Theo recalled one day seeing Abraham, one of the JHS students from last year’s programme, with a group of students and when he asked what they were doing, Abraham answered “it’s Maths; they didn’t understand it so I’m teaching them”. Interestingly, this new mentality of peer-to-peer support is something that Theo and the rest of the teachers at Antoa JHS attribute to Expo’s specific tutoring model.

This discussion made me realise that our peer-to-peer programmes have the potential to impact students so much more than by only improving participants’ test scores in maths and English. Our programmes seem to go beyond improving students’ academic level due to some considerable spill-over effects. In Ghana, the education system is largely based on lecturing by the teacher: by introducing activity-based learning using slightly older peers as tutors, Expo contributes to switching students’ mentality towards education from one where the teachers are the only source of knowledge and support to including peers. In other words, students replicate the same behaviour as seen from their tutors and this modelling phenomenon has been shown to be an important part of one’s learning process.

Raymond explains the difference between adjectives and nouns to Philip and Kyei.

This goes hand in hand both with what I have experienced at my programme and what the teachers are reporting: our JHS students adopt the same behaviour as their tutors by themselves helping their peers. With this mentality, students become more prone to helping each other, implying that our programmes are not only reaching out to the students we tutor, but potentially to their other classmates, siblings and friends. Modelling in this case leads to hidden benefits on students outside of the programme.

Interestingly, this shift in mentality towards education does not only occur with the participating JHS students: teachers at the Antoa SHS report that the SHS tutors are much more inclined towards helping each other and tutoring their classmates in difficulties. One of Expo’s ideas behind using local SHS tutors rather than non-Ghanaians adults is that SHS students are judged to be in the best position to teach their younger peers: they are familiar with the Ghanaian educational system and curriculum, the local culture and language, thus contributing to the perception of them as role models to their students. This means that the change in mentality that Expo brings to students doesn’t stop with our JHS students being tutored, but reaches out and benefits SHS students too. And this is exactly the reason why our programmes are such powerful educational tools: by tutoring a group of JHS students using SHS tutors, we have the potential to reach out to so many more students than only those participating in the programme.

The tutors practice the Maths activity for next session and brainstorm together how to best teach it to their students.


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