Teaching Learning Methods: Traditional vs. Modern vs. Peer-Assisted Learning

  • Jun 01, 2018
  • By Daniel Moses

By: Dr. Gopikumar Shivaramaiah


A dream for every medical student is to pursue their medical degree with flying colors. The medical profession is not everybody’s cup of tea. Once you decide to become a doctor, it can be a challenge to find a  suitable medical school and get entry into it. However, the real struggle begins once you start with your MD program.


Clearing each of your semesters with good percentage is highly dependent on how well you understand the subject. If you don’t have an in-depth understanding of the subject, it is impossible for you to succeed in a medical school. Each medical student finds it easier to learn the subject by a particular type of learning. Some may learn better by listening to a lecture, while many would not consider lectures as the best form of learning.


Traditional Teaching methods: The traditional, but at the same time most important and effective, tool of teaching is lectures. Many students consider lectures the most effective tool of teaching and learning. The professor condenses the vast study material, and delivers to the students in an organized way, which significantly reduces the burden on the student. Even though lectures are considered a useful teaching learning tool, it has its own pros and cons.

Main Advantages of a lecture:

  • Lectures can be used to meet the specific needs of the audiences.
  • Lectures can be used to condense a huge amount of information and can be presented to a larger audiences.
  • Lectures can appeal to the students who learn best by listening.


Main disadvantages of a lecture:

  • Lectures would be suitable only for effective communicators. Reading the material on the slide is not effective in lectures.
  • Students are made passive in lectures and cannot give feedback to the teacher.
  • Teachers would presume that all the students learn at the same pace and are at the same level of understanding. (But they actually are not!)

Modern Teaching methods: As an alternate to the lectures, there has been a lot of modern teaching methods which prove to be more effective. Some of the important modern teaching methods would include:

  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Team-Based Learning
  • Small-group discussion
  • Flipped-classroom projects

Advantages of modern teaching methods:

  1. These teaching methods are considered very effective learning tool as the active student participation is a must.
  2. These methods lead to long-term knowledge retention.
  3. These methods are very effective for students don’t excel working solo.
  4. These methods develop teamwork and interpersonal communication skills.


Disadvantages of modern teaching methods:

  1. These modern methods want the students to come well prepared about the subject. Student unpreparedness is the biggest hindrance for learning in these methods.
  2. Not effective for a large group of students.
  3. Students who are academically strong may provide more input and have a better participation than other students. Hence, it may create a learning imbalance among the students.


Peer Assisted Learning: The “peer assisted learning” method of learning was adopted by British Higher Education system in the 1990s. It is considered as a “student-to-student” support system. In this system, some students are identified as PAL leaders within their classroom. Academic brilliance and good communication skills are the basis on which the PAL leaders are nominated. These PAL leadersare responsible for the learning of others in a classroom. Key features of PAL are:

  • PAL leaders are trained for their role at the beginning of the semester with an induction course.
  • PAL leaders would be chosen from the same cohort / classroom of students to which PAL leader would belong to.
  • A PAL coordinator would observe the work of PAL leaders and give them feedback on their performances.
  • PAL leaders can be appreciated and paid a minimal amount for their teaching sessions with other students.
  • PAL sessions can be timetabled and the program can be streamlined.


Advantages of Peer Assisted Learning:

  • Students who have a phobia of approaching teachers benefit from the PAL program.
  • PAL leaders are able to share simpler, better techniques of learning, which can boost the performance of other students.
  • Students can learn both basic and complicated concepts easily.
  • PAL leaders benefit from this program because a student learns better by teaching others. The knowledge of the PAL leader would be amplified and boost their confidence.
  • Students have the option to learn only what is required for them and do not need to attend the topics which they are already well-versed with.
  • PAL program creates a better teaching learning environment for the students to learn the subject.
  • PAL program could be modified by each university based on its convenience, but adhering to the motto of “student to student learning”.

For better scores in your medical career, in-depth understanding of the subject is  essential. The student has a vital role in choosing the appropriate teaching-learning method for them, and to make use of that specific method to gain maximum knowledge and excel in their medical career.