Objective: To provide an estimation of how often peer teaching is applied in medical education, based on reports in the literature and to summarize reasons that support the use of this form of teaching.
Method: We surveyed the 2006 medical education literature and categorised reports of peer teaching according to educational distance between students teaching and students taught, group size, and level of formality of the teaching. Subsequently, we analysed the rationales for applying peer teaching.
Results: Most reports were published abstracts in either Medical Education's annual feature 'Really Good Stuff' or the AMEE's annual conference proceedings. We identified twelve distinct reasons to apply peer teaching, including 'alleviating faculty teaching burden', 'providing role models for junior students', 'enhancing intrinsic motivation' and 'preparing physicians for their future role as educators'.
Discussion: Peer teaching appears to be practiced often, but many peer teaching reports do not become full length journal articles. We conclude that specifically 'near-peer teaching' appears beneficial for student teachers and learners as well as for the organisation. The analogy of the 'journeyman', as intermediate between 'apprentice' and 'master', with both learning and teaching tasks, is a valuable but yet under-recognized source of education in the medical education continuum.