What is Peer Assisted Learning (PAL)?

What Is PAL?

“People from similar social groupings who are not professional teachers helping each other to learn and learning themselves by teaching” (Topping, 1996).

“A two-way, reciprocal learning activity” (Boud, 2001).

Simply put “PAL is the umbrella term and encompasses all programmes in which students learn from students” (Olaussen et al, 2016).

Benefits for the Learner

  • Increased knowledge
  • Increased psychomotor skills
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved communication skills
  • Emotional support
  • Learn the ‘hidden curriculum’
  • Able to admit areas of development in a flattened hierarchy

Benefits for the Tutor

To teach is to learn twice” by Joseph Joubert.

  • Revision and reinforcing learnt knowledge
  • Improved teaching skills
  • Improved feedback skills
  • Improved communication skills
  • Increased knowledge
  • Increased confidence and responsibility

For the Team

The role modelling, communication and working together may improve teamwork practices.


Some studies found PAL programs provided no benefit or effect, or the benefit of improved learning occurred for the tutor rather than the learner (the power of reinforcement).

The evidence of PAL in healthcare is predominantly from the student setting so questions remain on introducing PAL in the workplace.

PAL Presentation


Olaussen, A., Reddy, P., Irvine, S., & Williams, B. (2016). Peer-assisted learning: time for nomenclature clarification. Medical education online, 21(1), 30974. [abstract]

McKenna, L., & French, J. (2011). A step ahead: Teaching undergraduate students to be peer teachers. Nurse Education in Practice11(2), 141-145. [abstract]

Topping KJ. The effectiveness of peer tutoring in further and higher education: A typology and review of the literature. Higher Ed 1996; 32: 321–345. [view pages 1-25]

Ten Cate, O., & Durning, S. (2007). Peer teaching in medical education: twelve reasons to move from theory to practiceMedical teacher29(6), 591-599.