The hidden curriculum in near-peer learning: An exploratory qualitative study

Lisa McKenna, Brett Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background Near-peer learning involving students from the same course, but at different levels, has gained prominence in health professional education over recent years. At the authors’ university, nursing and paramedic students engage in near-peer learning in clinical skills laboratories where junior students learn specific skills from senior students. Our observations indicated that beyond the skills teaching, unintended learning occurred repeatedly. Objectives The aim of this study was to examine near-peer learner and teacher experiences of participating in near-peer learning and to explore students’ engagement beyond the skill being learnt. Methods Separate focus group interviews were conducted with groups of peer learners and peer teachers from nursing and paramedics following near-peer teaching and learning sessions. In total, 26 students participated in one of four audio-recorded focus groups. Results Data were analysed thematically. A range of unintended learning experiences became evident, indicating the operation of hidden curriculum additional to that intended within the formal curriculum. Four main areas emerged and were focussed on junior students: identifying with their peers, the course and related expectations, clinical placements and managing difficult situations. Conclusions Near-peer learning and teaching has been reported as having a range of positive outcomes, particularly for those engaged in the teaching. However, this study has highlighted that can also provide a range of benefits unique to junior students. More research is warranted to further examine this phenomena and ways to harness and extend such learning opportunities, as well as the nature of social and cognitive congruence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-81
Number of pages5
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Curriculum
  • Near-peer teaching
  • Nursing
  • Peers
  • Social congruence

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