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The buddy system is a procedure in which two people, the "buddies", operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other. As per Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the phrase “buddy system” goes as far back as 1942. Webster goes on to define the buddy system as “an arrangement in which two individuals are paired (as for mutual safety in a hazardous situation).”  The buddy system is basically working together in pairs in a large group or alone. Both the individuals have to do the job. The job could be to ensure that the work is finished safely or the skill/learning is transferred effectively from one individual to the other.
In adventurous or dangerous activities, where buddies are often required, the main benefit of the system is improved safety; each may be able to prevent the other becoming a casualty or rescue the other in a crisis.
When this system is used as part of training or the induction of newcomers to an organization, the less experienced buddy learns more quickly from close and frequent contact with the experienced buddy than when operating alone.
The buddy system is used in the United States Armed Forces, and referred to by various names in each branch ("Wingmen" in the Air Force, "Battle Buddies" in the Army, "Shipmates" in the Navy), as well as the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA
It is also used by religious organisations like the LDS Church. Members on mission form a companionship constituted by two or sometimes more missionaries, which are not allowed to be alone for a two year time period: "Stay Together. Never be alone. It is extremely important that you stay with your companion at all times."
The buddy system is used in New Employee Onboarding for assisting with the formalities in the organization. The period could be from a month to two months. The buddy helps in acclimatizing the new employee to the culture and day to day aspects of working, in a shorter period of time. The buddy helps the new employee to become knowledgeable about department practices and organizational culture in a shorter period. The purpose of assigning new employees with a buddy is to help welcome employees and reaffirms their decision to join the organization. It provides new employees with a reliable, motivated, single point-of-contact for their basic questions regarding their work experience. The buddy system is an effective method to provide support, monitor stress, and reinforce safety procedures.
The buddy system is also informally used by school-aged children, especially on field trips. Assigning each student a buddy provides an extra measure of safety and removes some of the burden of keeping an eye on a large number of children in an unfamiliar environment from the supervising adults.
The buddy system encourages open and effective dialogue among peers and tends to break down social barriers with their classmates. It helps create a collaborative learning environment in which peers feel less hesitant to raise questions. This enables students to develop social networks, cross-cultural experiences. It provides effective support for the students who are ‘at risk’ and to lower the attrition rate at the higher education level.
The buddy system helps to promote friendship and support between older and younger peers through regular collaboration between their classes, nurturing a sense of whole-school community. Students create friendships that enable both older and younger ‘buddies’ to bond more closely with their school, increasing the likelihood of more positive school behavior and positive response towards learning for all students. The buddy system helps students starting at a new school have a welcoming experience from the very beginning. The older children learn to take on responsibility, while the younger children know that they have a fellow student they can confidently turn to for support. The students learn and share from their peers and learn collaboratively. The students actively participate with each other and enjoy the informal setting and feel comfortable discussing with peers rather than a teacher. The opportunity for active participation, clearing doubts and discussions help students to continue with studies or activities with joy and creates a depth in the subject matter. The buddy system helps to increase self-confidence for all involved in the system and in the process helps build trust and co-operation within individuals. It benefits the buddies, buddy learner, school/university and the parents as well. The buddies involved also learn leadership skills and in turn can take up the role of buddy leader. The buddy system helps in reducing the stress level of the learner. It reduces the levels of anxiety experienced by the students who struggle to engage with course material or with the school/university in general. "When there's a companion available, the physiological measure of stress--cortisol levels in the blood--can be alleviated somewhat," explains Jim Winslow, PhD, a specialist in behavioral neuroscience and pharmacology and head of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program, Non-human Primate Core.
Teachers at progressive schools collaborate to improve their students' learning—and their own. It gives independence to all students, and increases self-esteem and peer acceptance. Children become protectors of each other.
Christine Hogan states that the buddy system approach is highly appropriate for organizational behavior studies adding to the students′ range of learning strategies. The technique not only works with peers of the same nation but has also proved to be of particular importance to foreign students.
Peer-to-Peer Buddy System for Student with Autism
A key element of education is to build empathy and understand other people in the society. This approach sees a small group of students in a class being made “buddies” for a student with Autism. The students are made aware of particular challenge a student has and are asked to take special care to include them, to be on the lookout for any bullying or exclusion and to be supportive to the student if they get stressed out or upset at break time or in class. The students who are selected would be chosen for their maturity and kindness. Parental consent would be sought from the parents of the students involved. While not every student with Autism will instantly begin to socialise or make friends, this approach will at the very least ensure inclusion and also that there will be a friendly pair of eyes when teachers are not present or are out of ear-shot. Everyone needs a buddy sometimes – maybe a student is having a bad day, is upset about something or just isn’t very good at starting conversations or making friends alone. Under this system, a class would explore difference as a whole and recognize that everyone in a class is different and so have different needs, strengths, abilities and oddities. They would then either be paired up or each student would draw a name and become “buddy” to that person, perhaps without them even being made aware of it. Before the draw or pairing it could be discussed with the teacher, to ensure a student with Autism gets an especially strong buddy. The advantage of this system is that it does not single out the student with Autism, especially if they are not comfortable with that, and instead includes everyone. Additionally, it gives the person with Autism a role in being a buddy also, which can be used to teach social skills, expectations and etiquette.
- "What is the buddy system?". FAQs. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Buddy System in Swimming, Boating, Rappelling and other activities.". Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- "LDS Missionary Handbook".
- Andelson, Rachel. "Buddy system eases stress". http://www.apa.org/. External link in
- Wagner, Tony. "The Buddy System". http://www.edweek.org/. External link in
- Christine Hogan, (1992) "″You Are Not Studying Alone″: Introducing Experiential Learning into the Teaching of Organizational Behaviour", Education + Training, Vol. 34 Iss: 4
- Harris, Adam. "“Back to School”: Buddy System". https://www.asiam.ie. External link in
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