Aims and objectives. The purpose of this review is to provide a framework for peer teaching and learning in the clinical education of undergraduate health science students in clinical practice settings and make clear the positive and negative aspects of this teaching and learning strategy.
Background. The practice of using peers incidentally or purposefully in the clinical education of apprentice or undergraduate health science students is a well-established tradition and commonly practiced, but lacks definition in its implementation.
Method. The author conducted a search of health science and educational electronic databases using the terms peer, clinical education and undergraduate. The set limitations were publications after 1980 (2005 inclusive), English language and research papers. Selection of studies occurred: based on participant, intervention, research method and learning outcomes, following a rigorous critical and quality appraisal with a purposefully developed tool. The results have been both tabled and collated in a narrative summary.
Results. Twelve articles met the inclusion criteria, representing five countries and four health science disciplines. This review reported mostly positive outcomes on the effectiveness of peer teaching and learning; it can increase student's confidence in clinical practice and improve learning in the psychomotor and cognitive domains. Negative aspects were also identified; these include poor student learning if personalities or learning styles are not compatible and students spending less individualized time with the clinical instructor.
Conclusions. Peer teaching and learning is an effective educational intervention for health science students on clinical placements. Preclinical education of students congruent with the academic timetable increases student educational outcomes from peer teaching and learning. Strategies are required prior to clinical placement to accommodate incompatible students or poor student learning.
Relevance to clinical practice. The findings from this systematic review, although not statistically significant, do have pragmatic implications for clinical practice. It can increase clinical placement opportunities for undergraduate health students, assist clinical staff with workload pressures and increase clinician time with clients, while further developing students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes.