Testing assumptions of peer assisted learning in clinical education

Mrs Samantha Sevenhuysen 1,2, Associate Professor Elizabeth Molloy 2, Professor Terry Haines 1,2

Monash Health, Dandenong, Australia

Monash University, Clayton, Australia


Title: Testing assumptions of peer assisted learning in clinical education

Aim: Identify key assumptions of educators that may serve as barriers to PAL in clinical education practice, and test whether these conceptions are justified or misplaced.

Method: Two consecutive stages of research were conducted to address the research aims. In stage one, four PAL workshops were conducted for clinical educators. Data specific to any assumptions, conceptions or concerns about PAL were extracted from workshop transcripts, participant written feedback and facilitator reflective debrief forms and analysed thematically. In stage two, these assumptions were tested through two separate experimental studies. Both quantitative data pertaining to student and clinical educator outcomes and qualitative data on the clinical education experience were collected.

Results: Stage one revealed that clinical educators perceived student involvement in PAL could result in: peer relationships which are difficult to manage, a reduction in the students’ ability to perform independently, a limitation to students’ exposure to ‘hands on’ patient experiences, inferior quality of information being shared between students compared with what would be taught by the clinical educator and increased clinical educator workload. Through testing in stage two, all these assumptions were refuted with the exception the administration and planning requirements of the clinical educator and the impact of the cohesion of the peer-peer relationship.

Significance of the findings to allied health: Misconceptions about the effect of utilising PAL in clinical education may serve as barriers to its use. This study has demonstrated that some assumptions held by clinical educators are not supported by evidence. We recommend that these assumptions and any others that may emerge from stakeholder engagement are openly discussed as part of any PAL education initiative.