What is peer education?
Peer education is a term widely used to describe a range of initiatives where young people from a similar age group, background, culture and/or social status educate and inform each other about a wide variety of issues.
The rationale behind peer education is that peers can be a trusted and credible source of information. They share similar experiences and social norms and are therefore better placed to provide relevant, meaningful, explicit and honest information.
Defining peer education
The following definition takes the key elements of peer education into account:
'Peer education is an approach which empowers young people to work with other young people, and which draws on the positive strength of the peer group. By means of appropriate training and support, the young people become active players in the educational process rather than passive recipients of a set message. Central to this work is the collaboration between young people and adults.'Fast Forward, national voluntary organisation promoting health and wellbeing
Peer education in school
Peer education is an increasingly popular method of providing information and advice to young people in both school and community-based settings. Well-considered peer education initiatives can offer a wide range of benefits to pupils, peer educators, teachers and the school as a whole.
Using a peer education model to deliver information and education to young people can ensure that the adult partner (for example, a teacher or school nurse), peer educator and peer educatee take an equal role in informing, shaping and passing on information.
Benefits of peer education
The benefits for peer educators are widely recognised and can include positive changes in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes and confidence. Peer education has a strong emphasis on personal development and can be particularly effective in allowing low achieving pupils to fully participate and succeed in a wider range of educational and health promoting activities.
Peer educatees can benefit from credible, up-to-date, relevant and fun inputs delivered by fellow pupils with whom they can identify and build positive relationships with.
As part of a whole school approach, peer education initiatives can play a major role in helping schools foster positive relationships between pupils and teachers. They can help schools to create a caring and safe environment that promotes the health of all its members.
Scottish Peer Education Network
The Scottish Peer Education Network (SPEN) offers support to, and assists communication between, peer educators, practitioners and policy makers involved in peer education across Scotland. Members of the network have the opportunity to:
- meet, network and share experiences with others involved in peer education in Scotland
- be involved in facilitating and/or attending free practice-based network events.