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The power of peers: approaches from writing and libraries

Bronwen K. Maxson (UO Libraries, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, USA)
Michelle E. Neely (Department of English, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Lindsay M. Roberts (University Library, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA)
Sean M. Stone (School of Dentistry Library, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)
M. Sara Lowe (University Library, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)
Katharine V. Macy (University Library, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)
Willie Miller (University Library, IUPUI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 15 August 2019

Issue publication date: 20 November 2019




The purpose of this paper is to discuss different strategies for implementing peer teaching as well as different roles for peer teachers in both academic libraries and writing-intensive courses. It explores connections to critical pedagogy, sociocultural theory, open educational practices and high-impact practices.


The methodology for implementing the three scenarios discussed in the paper differs widely. All approaches include some form of student feedback through focus groups, exit surveys or end-of-class assessments.


In both library and writing program settings, students have experience with and a favorable opinion of peer-assisted learning strategies.

Practical implications

These case studies provide concrete examples of how to develop different types of peer teaching interventions. The cases also detail benefits as well as challenges to implementation.

Social implications

Providing opportunities for peers to lead through teaching others has the potential to boost an individual’s sense of confidence, leadership and improve their own learning, as well as give students’ experiences to build upon and apply to their everyday lives and future careers.


While peer teaching is widely implemented in many disciplines, such as science, technology, engineering and medicine, its adoption in academic libraries has sometimes been viewed as controversial. This case study adds to the body of literature demonstrating that peer teaching is possible and desirable.



This paper forms part of a special section “Library Instruction West, Part 1”, guest edited by Sarah Barbara Watstein.

The peer teaching curriculum developed at IUPUI (formerly Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) was developed using a curriculum enhancement grant (CEG) from the Center for Teaching and Learning. The first author would also like to acknowledge Alison Hicks (Lecturer, Department of Information Studies, University College, London), for shaping her thinking around sociocultural practices.


Maxson, B.K., Neely, M.E., Roberts, L.M., Stone, S.M., Lowe, M.S., Macy, K.V. and Miller, W. (2019), "The power of peers: approaches from writing and libraries", Reference Services Review, Vol. 47 No. 3, pp. 314-330.



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