Peer tutoring in a medical school: perceptions of tutors and tutees

Annette Burgess*, Tim Dornan, Antonia J. Clarke, Audrey Menezes, Craig Mellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Peer tutoring has been described as "people from similar social groupings who are not professional teachers helping each other to learn and learning themselves by teaching". Peer tutoring is well accepted as a source of support in many medical curricula, where participation and learning involve a process of socialisation. Peer tutoring can ease the transition of the junior students from the university class environment to the hospital workplace. In this paper, we apply the Experienced Based Learning (ExBL) model to explore medical students' perceptions of their experience of taking part in a newly established peer tutoring program at a hospital based clinical school. Methods: In 2014, all students at Sydney Medical School - Central, located at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital were invited to voluntarily participate in the peer tutoring program. Year 3 students (n = 46) were invited to act as tutors for Year 1 students (n = 50), and Year 4 students (n = 60) were invited to act as tutors for Year 2 students (n = 51). Similarly, the 'tutees' were invited to take part on a voluntary basis. Students were invited to attend focus groups, which were held at the end of the program. Framework analysis was used to code and categorise data into themes. Results: In total, 108/207 (52 %) students participated in the program. A total of 42/106 (40 %) of Year 3 and 4 students took part as tutors; and of 66/101 (65 %) of Year 1 and 2 students took part as tutees. Five focus groups were held, with 50/108 (46 %) of students voluntarily participating. Senior students (tutors) valued the opportunity to practice and improve their medical knowledge and teaching skills. Junior students (tutees) valued the opportunity for additional practice and patient interaction, within a relaxed, small group learning environment. Conclusion: Students perceived the peer tutoring program as affording opportunities not otherwise available within the curriculum. The peer teaching program provided a framework within the medical curriculum for senior students to practice and improve their medical knowledge and teaching skills. Concurrently, junior students were provided with a valuable learning experience that they reported as being qualitatively different to traditional teaching by faculty.
Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2016


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