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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 134-135

Comparing a centralized institutional and student-run peer-assisted learning program in medicine

1 Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
2 Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK

Date of Web Publication30-Nov-2018

Correspondence Address:
Kevin G Buell
Reynolds Building, St. Dunstan's Road, London, Hammersmith, W6 6RP
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_78_18

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How to cite this article:
Buell KG, Pitts W, Edmondson M, Chu A. Comparing a centralized institutional and student-run peer-assisted learning program in medicine. Educ Health 2018;31:134-5

How to cite this URL:
Buell KG, Pitts W, Edmondson M, Chu A. Comparing a centralized institutional and student-run peer-assisted learning program in medicine. Educ Health [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 10];31:134-5. Available from:

Dear Editor,

Peer-assisted learning (PAL) is commonly employed in medical institutions, yet there is little guidance for educators on how to structure a PAL program.[1] We were interested in the experience of Gaughf and Foster's description of a centralized institutional peer-tutoring program and compared this with our experience of coordinating student-run PAL at Imperial College School of Medicine (London, United Kingdom).[2]

We propose that there is a sufficient incentive for student tutors to participate in PAL without the prospect of financial gain. For example, 72.5% (n = 124/171) of third-year medical students expressed interest in becoming peer tutors during a faculty-led teaching skills training course at Imperial College. Consequently, our student-run PAL program easily recruited 70 student volunteer tutors from a class of 350 students.

There is a wide variety of benefits from being a peer tutor: their own learning benefit, the development of teaching skills without the scrutiny of faculty, and increasing awareness of their teaching roles as doctors. Anecdotal evidence suggested that our tutors were predominantly motivated by the idea of reciprocating the learning experience they had previously experienced as tutees. It is well established that participation in PAL increases the likelihood of further interest in teaching,[3] with a PAL program in Glasgow (Scotland) even recording that 86% of their tutees planned to enroll as future tutors.[4]

In addition, nonaltruistic motivators should also be considered. The UK General Medical Council recommends that all medical students should be taught how to teach, and in Bulte's questionnaire-based study, 83% of students either agreed or strongly agreed that “every medical student should learn how to teach.”[5] In our program, the provision of certificates of participation to be used for postgraduate applications and personalized anonymous tutee feedback also acted as powerful incentives to participate as tutors.

Gaughf et al. paid tutors an hourly salary and due to funding restrictions had to limit the number of hours that students participated in PAL. The payment system also required monitoring of invoices and therefore entails an additional expensive administrative layer. Removing tutor salaries would enable student groups to practice PAL without restricting the duration of each session and make PAL more accessible to institutions without the desire or the means to fund it. We believe that maximizing intrinsic student motivation to either become better teachers or enhance others' learning represents an alternative, free, and self-perpetuating method for the recruitment of tutors.

The paper by Gaughf and Foster provides useful lessons on how an institution with sufficient resources can successfully implement PAL on a large scale. Our experience is limited to a single institution and is founded on student-run PAL. However, we believe that PAL in medical education should operate independently of financial incentive as a more sustainable model of ensuring the maintenance of PAL programs. We hope to see the role of PAL continue to grow from both perspectives and that the reader may use our combined experience to refine its use further.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Soriano RP, Blatt B, Coplit L, CichoskiKelly E, Kosowicz L, Newman L, et al. Teaching medical students how to teach: A national survey of students-as-teachers programs in U.S. Medical schools. Acad Med 2010;85:1725-31.  Back to cited text no. 1
Gaughf NW, Foster PS. Implementing a centralized institutional peer tutoring program. Educ Health (Abingdon) 2016;29:148-51.  Back to cited text no. 2
Buckley S, Zamora J. Effects of participation in a cross year peer tutoring programme in clinical examination skills on volunteer tutors' skills and attitudes towards teachers and teaching. BMC Med Educ 2007;7:20.  Back to cited text no. 3
Field M, Burke JM, McAllister D, Lloyd DM. Peer-assisted learning: A novel approach to clinical skills learning for medical students. Med Educ 2007;41:411-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Bulte C, Betts A, Garner K, Durning S. Student teaching: Views of student near-peer teachers and learners. Med Teach 2007;29:583-90.  Back to cited text no. 5

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