Learning with peers: Does that foster critical reasoning?

Swati Paranjape, Madhavi Dharankar


Background: Health science education is competency based education where one needs to critically think and analyse the problem. Critical thinking is meta-cognitive process where self-learning and meaningful learning are integral. Peer-learning helps in fostering higher order thinking and provides the environment for meaningful learning. There is a mixed evidence of effectiveness of peer learning. Very few studies have addressed changing group dynamics, group composition and its effect on critical reasoning ability. Hence present study aimed to assess effectiveness of peer-learning on critical reasoning ability, in physiotherapy undergraduate students, with changing group composition.
Methodology: This quasi experimental two group crossover study was conducted in two phases. Total 37 fourth year physiotherapy students were involved in the study by convenient sampling. The students were randomly allocated in two groups. In first phase, Group One was sub-grouped based on scores of content knowledge test taken before experiment, by grouping high, medium and low scorers together. Group Two was given a freedom to choose their partners. In second phase groups crossed over. Five case-based sessions were conducted in each phase and both groups fulfilled the objectives, by peer discussion within their subgroup.
Outcome measure was health science critical reasoning ability using Health Science Reasoning Test
Results: There was no significant difference found in the test scores between both the groups. This study does not favour the effectiveness of the peer-learning in improving critical reasoning skills. There found no effect of changing group composition on critical reasoning ability. The results could be content and discipline specific.

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