Combining Augmented Reality with Peer Learning Pedagogy: iPEAR Theoretical Framework

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, and the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry beings pursue with the world and with others.” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed)


Writing a paper on pedagogy as a theoretical framework is rare because educators, instructional designers, and researchers have difficulty grasping philosophical terms. Pedagogy is a fearful term. “When I hear the word ‘pedagogy,’ I reach for my gun” (IT director, UK university; quoted in Ellis and Goodyear 2019, p.185). Themelis (2022) urges educators to reflect on their pedagogy as philosophy, science, and the art of teaching and create new frameworks that address their students’ needs and preferences.

The ultimate goal of the pedagogy is students’ empowerment and autonomy while learning with and from others in a life-long approach. The science of learning shows that ‘learning friends’ make a difference and, especially during the pandemia, was life-saving for the students’ and educators’ mental health. Students have chosen the inclusive visual language of the internet using any form of visuals: emoji, videos, 3D animation, QR codes, and augmented reality whenever possible. Visual language is inclusive for two reasons: firstly, it helps the students with learning challenges (Sime & Themelis,2021). Secondly, It conveys the meaning by providing a microlearning experience concisely and memorably. After all, the UN Goal 4: Quality education emphasised inclusive and equitable education for all. The vision statement for inclusive education states:

‘. . . a process of systemic reform embodying changes and modifications in content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies in education to overcome barriers with a vision serving to provide all students of the relevant age range with an equitable and participatory learning experience and environment that best corresponds to their requirements and preferences.’ (United Nations, General Comment No. 4, 2016, p.4)

Thus ‘i’ in the i-Pear project stands for students’ requirements and preferences. Before explaining the framework, it is essential to define peer learning and augmented reality in the frame of the project:

There are many definitions for peer learning, including different roles and responsibilities. Boud, Cohen, and Sampson explain it as” the use of teaching and learning strategies in which students learn with and from each other without the immediate intervention of a teacher (1999, p. 413). It can be described as reciprocal peer learning. According to Wessel (2015,  p.14), when students engage in peer instruction, they can learn practical skills on how to teach and give critical feedback. According to Harvard Business Review, peer-to-peer learning fits naturally with how we naturally acquire new skills. They describe what is called a Learning Loop: People gain new skills best in any situation that includes all four stages of what we call the “Learning Loop”: gain knowledge; practice by applying that knowledge; get feedback, and reflect on what has been learned. Peer-to-peer learning encompasses all of these.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the technology that links visual information with the real world. The technical means it uses include Multimedia, 3D-Modelling, Real-time Tracking and Registration, Intelligent Interaction, Sensing, and more. Its principle is to apply computer-generated virtual information, such as text, images, 3D models, music, video, etc., to the real world as a complement(Hu Tianyu et al., 2017).

As defined above, the inclusive framework of AR with peer learning is under investigation in the agenda of project. It aims to create new approaches that make students empowered and creative and the educators as learning architects of these collaborative experiences. The innovative practice should analyze concrete experiences in distance education and in-class in higher education. The pedagogy is under a research process in Germany, Norway, and Greece for further adoption in higher education online and offline.

The theoretical framework (strategy) of peer to peer learning (P2P)  and AR

The pedagogical strategy is based on philosophy, science, and the art of teaching. Philosophically speaking, education could be regarded as a journey to autonomy and self-efficacy. Students have to be life-long learners to address the demand of the job market and search for personal fulfilment via a process of learning to unlearn while maintaining mental and physical wellbeing. Albert Bandura (1977)  claimed that learning is not an isolated act, but we can learn by observing others. Another critical element of his theory is self-efficacy. He explained that self-determination and self-confidence in learning (beliefs as determinants) are crucial to how people behave and think in every field of life.

The science of pedagogy targets understanding the level of autonomy before constructing learning objectives. For example, people from different educational and cultural backgrounds may have experienced more ‘authoritarian’ educators, the so-called ‘Sage on the stage’ that control all the course activities and use lectures to reach learning objectives. This target group may not be ready for an eLearning course or peer learning in lecture halls. The educators could be described as facilitators- the ‘Guide on your side’ or fellow traveller in post-graduate or PhD studies education.

Figure 1 shows the gradual steps to self-efficacy and autonomy. The incremental steps from pedagogy to andragogy then to heutagogy, self-efficacy, and awareness (based on Canning, 2010, p. 63). The first prerequisite based on social learning theories are learning with others is self-efficacy (Learner’s autonomy & empowerment) (Themeli,2022); The second is the ability to use technologies and e-search methods called e-maturity. image edited by Eleni Tsampra. 

Fig 1:  Self-efficacy and Autonomy

The final stage of the Journey is heutagogy. McAuliffe, Hargreaves, Winter and Chadwick (2008) proposed the following principles:

  • Knowing how to learn is a crucial skill
  • Educators focus on the learning process rather than content
  • Learning goes beyond specific discipline
  • Learning occurs through self-chosen and self-directive action

P2P learning is the intermediate step that helps students enhance their critical thinking and collaboration skills, moving away from teacher-led activities.

 The i-PEAR Schema

The i-PEAR Schema’s purpose is to visualize the theoretical model. It is divided into four sections in constant interaction: visual literacy, digital competence in AR,  P2P tasks, and feedback. 

Fig 2:  iPEAR Pedagogy

The first pillar of the i-PEAR pedagogy is visual literacy. According to The Framework for Visual Literacy in Higher Education, definitions of visual literacy differ among disciplines. The explanation below, from the 2011 ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, is commonly used in the context of librarianship:

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture ( ARCL, 2022)

The students and educators need to understand what visuals (videos, Infogrames, 3D models, etc.) they need to find or create for their learning outcomes. Then through the creative process, educators could allow students some room for experimentation. Visual literacies (visual forms of reading, culture, aesthetics, ethics, embodiment, disembodiment, or avatar perspective-taking in media places) could be significant for educators’ professional training (Themelis, 2022). The visible capital has a lot of significance that educators need to be aware of. Visual transmit messages faster, but they can be read differently by different audiences, so aesthetics and visual ethics need further training. The role of embodiment in various forms has many potentials for adopting different perspective-taking (Banakou et al.,2016).

The ARCL (2022) ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education on learners:

  • Learners participate in a changing visual information landscape
  • Learners perceive visuals as communicating information
  • Learners practice visual discernment and criticality
  • Learners pursue social justice through visual practice

Therefore, the educators could work on visual literacy within the disciplinary framework to determine the visual landscape, what needs to be created,  how to communicate and share information,  what kind of copyrights and critical thinking questions to pose, and what ethical considerations to take into account; according to the level of autonomy (pedagogy, andragogy, and students may require a different degree of intervention from educators. In peer learning, a template with critical questions may help to trigger attention to criticality and ethical implications of the visuals concerning conscious and unconscious bias.

The second pillar is digital competencies for AR. As mentioned above, visual literacy is part of AR that aims to extend realities with visuals of any form. Educators must invest significant time finding tools to use and serve the disciplinary requirements. They usually need the assistance of the so-called instructional designers or learning technologists to choose what is appropriate for their target audience and learning outcomes.

AR could be as simple as QR codes to AR apps with different difficulty levels to more elaborated holoLens, so it needs thorough investigation. Another obstacle for educators to overcome is computer engineers’ technical jargon, complicating AR adoption to Higher Education.

Josef Buchner, Katja Buntins, Michael Kerres (2021) applied the systematic review method of 58 studies analysed using rigorously defined inclusion and exclusion criteria. AR appears to be less cognitively demanding than other technologies and leads to higher performance. However, these results focused on media comparison studies that have been criticised for ages (Mayer, 2019ª).

According to the European framework for educators’ digital competence: DigCompEdu is adapted for AR. Educators need more training in 6 Areas:

  • Professional engagement is the competence to use digital technologies to enhance teaching and professional interactions with colleagues, students, and other interested parties.
  • Digital and Visual Resources as the competence to identify good educational resources and modify, create, and share digital resources such as video, Infogrames etc., that fit their learning objectives, student group, and teaching style. At the same time, they need to be aware of how to responsibly use and manage digital content, respect copyright rules and protect personal data.
  • Immersive Teaching and Learning as competence to adapt for immersive AR technologies framework is designing, planning, and implementing digital technologies in the different stages of the teaching and learning process. However, when doing this, the aim must be to shift the lesson’s focus from teacher-led to student-centred approaches.
  • Assessment as the competence to use immersive technologies to enhance existing assessment strategies and give new and better assessment methods. Additionally, educators can offer more targeted feedback and support by analysing the wealth of (digital) data on individual students’ (inter-)actions.
  • Empowering Learners as the competence to identify digital and immersive technologies in education is their potential to boost students’ active involvement in the learning process and their ownership of it. Digital technologies can furthermore be used to offer learning activities adapted to each student’s level of competence, interests, and learning needs. At the same time, attention must be taken not to exacerbate existing inequalities (e.g., access to digital technologies) and ensure accessibility for all students, including those with special learning challenges.
  • Facilitating Learners’ Digital Competence and Visual Literacy: as the competence to promote students’ digital competence and visual literacy from a technology-enhanced learning perspective.

The i-PEAR project plan to develop an online tool for assessing the generic digital competencies in AR as adapted from DigCompEdu.

The third pillar is the design of P2P instruction that could lead to self-efficacy and social rewards. Peer Instruction needs an educational architecture that provides micro-scaffolding according to the target group’s level of autonomy and skills. The bottom line is that the student’s interpretation and the teacher’s explanation may not be the same. The student constructs an answer of his own and examines it by explaining how he arrived at it (Pask 1975).

Studies at the Rochester Institute of technology have shown that P2P instruction:

  • Enhances students’ conceptual understanding and traditional quantitative problem-solving in the math and science disciplines (Crouch & Mazur, 2012).
  • Improves retention of knowledge. “Peer-instructed students who’ve actively argued for and explained their understanding of scientific concepts hold onto their knowledge longer” (Lambert, 2012, para 10).
  • Enhances course satisfaction and comprehension for students (Crouch, Watkins, Fagen, & Mazur, 2007).
  • Increases student motivation and engagement. Eric Mazur, a professor at Harvard University and an originator of the practice, claims that students feel at ease seeking guidance from their peers compared to pursuing clarification from the instructor and, therefore, engage in the course at a higher level (Simon & Cutts, 2012).

According to students ‘ maturity and autonomy, the fourth pillar is the social feedback culture before, during, and after the designed activity. In creating a Culture of Feedback, the students could créate social netiquette of how to pose questions before and after the task aligned with the growth mindset initiative. “A growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed, and research shows that students’ growth mindsets can predict higher achievement, wellbeing, and academic equity in many nations” (Dweck & Yeager, 2021).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the P2P approach provided a supportive alternative to monotonous and alienated distance courses based on lectures (Vergroesen, 2020). Students were allowed to co-create content, share personal experiences, analyse, evaluate, and retain knowledge while working with peers. Peers were an antidote against the passive learning approach (online lecturing) and loneliness of the two-meter society. Studies (Cohen, Kulik, Kulik, 1982; Freeman et al., 2014) provided evidence that students would have more chances to pass the class and deepen their understanding of the subject matter if they were working with others. Student-led seminars, peer reviews, and discussion topics in breakout sessions are peer-to-peer active learning approaches that have become popular in remote teaching. Students enjoy the personalised attention from their peers and take more responsibility for their personal growth (Vergroesen, 2020).

Peer feedback could be a reliable source for scalable learning under three conditions. Firstly, the students could use collaboration rubrics; the activity of reviewing should be with an optimal level of difficulty. Secondly, the people within the peer culture should be willing and able to teach each other. To top it all, the students should have built trust with each other, and the learning community spirit needs to be evident in online or offline social interactions.

Alrashidi et al. (2017) and Loup-Escande et al. (2017), AR could provide real-time feedback to learners. Alrashidi et al. (2017) compared an AR system to a paper-based manual during coding activities in computer science. The AR group showed a lower cognitive load and higher performance than the control group. Lower cognitive load was also found in the value-added study by Loup-Escande et al. (2017) when feedback during a calligraphy task was coloured, not black.

People need a rewarding system to work with peers depending on their cultural background. Some educational systems cultivate teamwork from a very young age, while others are more competitive. Parchoma (2005) defines reward power as “the most effective basis for expanding opportunities” and “the fuel upon which the work is accomplished depends on the rewards received by the people who do the job (p. 472).” Pentland (2014,2020) emphasises the power of rewards when working with others to build great teams.


The pedagogical framework is designed for the i-pear project to promote students’ empowerment, creativity and satisfaction. Peer learning is a form of social capital that could be used effectively to promote lifelong learning (Themelis,2022). The research process entails 20 interviews with educators from Greece, Norway and Germany and 60 survey questions from students. The preliminary finding shows that the i-PEAR approach has the potential to serve its purpose. However, the study is ongoing, targeting more case studies that will be developed into a compendium of best practices and presented in the MOOC  and at a conference in 2023. Future research could identify the limitations and more practical aspects to study.


The European Union has co-founded this project under the ERASMUS+ programme, grant 2020-1-DE01-KA203-5733. The paper reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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