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Peer-to-Peer Learning: The Mainland's New Route for Adult Education

With traditional education largely teacher-focussed, a new style of learning is very much putting the emphasis on students sharing their life experiences and developing collective coping strategies and solutions for many adult dilemmas.

Photo: A helping hand: Can students learn by reaching out to one another?
A helping hand: Can students learn by reaching out to one another?
Photo: A helping hand: Can students learn by reaching out to one another?
A helping hand: Can students learn by reaching out to one another?

Education has long been almost universally available, with many institutions offering courses suitable to the various needs of people of different ages and backgrounds. Traditionally, it's been a one-way teacher-led system. Now, though, an element of sharing – of learner-to-learner teaching – is increasingly becoming part of the process.

At present, most educational courses in China – whether they are aimed at toddlers, teenagers, adults or more elderly learners – tend to be entirely teacher-centric. Learner-centric education – where students share their life skills with their classmates – has been far less common.

The increasing adoption of this peer-to-peer model, however, is changing the way students acquire knowledge and information. By capitalising on learners' emotional intelligence, career skills and problem-solving abilities, such learning is a natural continuation of earlier, more conventionally academic, education.

Typically, it can have a focus on engineering improved coping skills in a variety of real-life situations – including taking an adult role in society, career development, resolving marital problems, starting a family, parenting skills and educating children. Subsequent later life stages covered might include getting out of a career rut, handling mid-life issues, managing the grief related to parental losses, planning for retirement and coming to terms with your own end-of-life challenges.

Beyond the introductory sessions, the key to the success of this kind of education is the sharing of experiences and beliefs by the participants, all within an appropriate thematic framework. Reconfiguring and relearning previously entrenched views with regard to spirituality, intellectual development and morality is at the very core of such peer-to-peer educational programmes.

These sessions can take a variety of formats. They could, for instance, involve inviting a number of single young men and women to meet on a group blind date. Alternatively, they could take the form of a workshop, where recent employees of a company are encouraged to share their negative experiences of previous workplaces.

With many people now uncovering and discussing challenging life experiences online, this new learning model is an attempt to recreate that in a face-to-face format, ultimately allowing participants to learn from one another through direct interaction. It is believed that transplanting such discussions into a real-life situation will prove a more positive experience than the frequently negative and alienating consequences of online interactions.

Overall, this new style of training aims to help those confused by many of life's unexpected challenges. It allows them to share their experiences with others in similar situations, with solutions and coping strategies emerging from this group dynamic. Frequently, such courses borrow widely from established religions, with participants encouraged to confess their shortcomings, as well as their hopes and aspirations for the future.

Essentially, this method of learning encourages participants to be frank about their experiences, while sharing the solutions that worked for them. Ultimately, it allows learners to take advantage of the mistakes others have made, taking their experience onboard and navigating their way around similar pitfalls.

At present, this learning mode is not widely available, although it is expected to enjoy increased uptake among the millennial generation.

Joanna Liu, Qingdao Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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