Peer Collaboration is a program where peers help one another with academics and with navigating the social world. The program supports students/peers with academic and social needs but equally enhances the lives of those providing the support (Twenty First Century Skills for peers). Peers help one another in the general education classroom, in study hall, during elective classes, at lunch, in the hallways, after school with extra curricular activities, and more!
Once a program is organized and established in the school we have found that both the collaborators and their peers will thrive. An environment of mutual understanding and acceptance will grow and student learning will increase. Both the collaborators and the peers they serve will reap benefits academically, socially, and emotionally.
Placing peers into classrooms with students who are struggling allows collaborating peers to build their empathy and leadership skills.
Additionally, having more leaders in the classroom allows the teacher to focus on all students, balancing his or her time with each student.
Peers learn to collaborate with their fellow students as well as with the classroom teacher. Classroom students learn to collaborate with their peers and gain a new understanding of the material, learn to build friendships, and overcome obstacles, eventually leading them to success.
Finally, the classroom teachers benefit from seeing how students communicate with each other to work through difficult material, thus giving the classroom teacher ideas for future interventions.
Most of the educational research surrounding Peer Collaboration or peer mediation has focused on the effect of Peer Collaboration on special education students. Other than student attitudes and/or tolerance of special needs students, there is little research on how typical peers benefit from Peer Collaboration. To that end, in 2012 we conducted a research project to answer the following question:
To what extent do general education students gain 21st century skills from peer collaborating with special education and typically developing students?
The question is important because it is an attempt to measure actual skills (related to employability, career preparedness, and vocational readiness) acquired by Peer Collaboration.
Our research indicated that out of the 23 21st Century Skills measured, students who were involved in the Peer Collaboration program, made gains in 11 of the 23 21st Century Skills as compared to same age students who were not involed in the program.