Learning from each other

There has been extensive work around the concept of students teaching each other - otherwise known as peer learning. This approach to pedagogy has its roots in Vygotskiian Zone of Proximal Development theory, where a more knowledgeable other, whether teacher, adult or simply a better informed peer, can extend someone's learning experience beyond what they might achieve alone (Vygotsky, 1978).  But peer education can also be reciprocal. In terms of Corneli and Danoff's (2011) and Corneli (2012) approach - paragogy - anyone can teach anyone else, because everyone knows something, but no-one knows everything. Students can even teach their teachers, in an extreme form of flipped learning I mentioned in a previous post.

It all sounds very democratic, but exactly how might it work?

In paragogy, students can exchange knowledge and can be learning from each other simultaneously. This is not something ZPD theory explicitly takes into account. Whenever I have seen this kind of reciprocal learning occur, it has emerged during intense discussions or more commonly, during collaborative learning, where a small group solve a problem or address a complex issue. Some of the best reciprocal peer learning I have witnessed has been around group production of artefacts such as video production.

The original ZPD concept was intended to be asymmetric - that a novice would be extended in their ability, knowledge or competency by the more knowledgeable other, but only in one direction. It was a formal pedagogical principle. However, the more one teaches, the more it becomes apparent that such lines of demarcation are notional at best, and that peer learning can readily occur informally across small groups, or even entire networks of individuals.

Peer learning is rarely asymmetric, and is not restricted to dyads.  But what about peer assessment? I'll develop that question further in my next post...

Corneli, J. and Danoff, C. J. (2011) Paragogy. In: Proceedings of the 6th Open Knowledge Conference, Berlin, Germany.
Corneli, J. (2012) Paragogical Praxis, E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(3), 267-272.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Photo by Primary Source on Flickr

Creative Commons License
Learning from each other by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Laura Ritchie said…
Great post! Paragogy is Peeragogy - and there's a whole book about it ( http://peeragogy.github.io/ ) with lots of examples and how-to's and case studies - and there are active Peeragogy groups meeting in weekly hangouts about it- both to share experiences and to forward research. There is a rich archive of these hangouts on youtube (be prepared for some of our off topic chat as well as on topic conversation!) Peeragogy was founded by Howard Rheingold and has 'peeragogically' grown and trickled into various settings - within and beyond academia - to include lawyers, teachers, publishers... it isn't just for school, but does have many applications within education. My case study in the book is about peeragogy between students, academics, and the pro v-c. Integration, valuing and learning from one another is so important - I'll look forward to your next post!
arided said…
Perhaps it is slightly ambitious to say "paragogy IS peeragogy" but they are closely related! The examiners of my PhD thesis ( http://oro.open.ac.uk/40775/ ) required me to split hairs and choose one; I decided to go with paragogy there. I copy a quote below.

Nearly the first-ever public use of the term "paragogy" in a learning-related sense, back in October 2010, is here: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/diy-math/X8uCWYRFzVQ/ccLCATWEYvoJ (I used the term in a somewhat embarassing post-mortem analysis as an excuse for the disaster -- namely that we didn't have any relevant theory to guide us.)

In the same post I also came up with "peertagogy" as a shorthand for "peer-to-peer learning" but it didn't last very long! Some other useful "archival" paragogy stuff is on paragogy.net

Howard's introduction of Peeragogy proper, in January 2012, is at http://dmlcentral.net/blog/howard-rheingold/toward-peeragogy in text form and https://vimeo.com/35685124 in video form, and indeed as Laura mentioned this has blossomed into quite a vibrant collaborative project.

It seems to me that both terms have strengths and weaknesses, but Peeragogy has certainly won out in popularity.

Perhaps it would be most accurate to say "Peeragogy is Paragogy". In a recent paper ( http://metameso.org/~joe/docs/peeragogy_pattern_catalog_final.pdf ) I put forth the following definition of peeragogy:

«We use the word *peeragogy* to talk about peer-led multi-way collaboration in relatively non-hierarchical settings.»

What I'm getting at is that "peer-led" is one possible gloss for "paragogy". But there are lots of others which is one thing I found exciting about it! Here's the promised quote from my thesis.

«The term evokes but also challenges the idiom of the “guide on the side.” It is a preexisting word in both English and Greek, so it brings additional associations through its etymology. [Greek: παραγωγή, meaning “production”, “generation”; English: “coaptation”, i.e. “the adaptation or adjustment of parts to each other”, and also “letters added for emphasis or to change the sense of a word.”] There are models of peer learning that remain “provisionist” rather than peer produced (Boud & Lee, ‘Peer learning’ as pedagogic discourse for research education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(5):501–516): in other words, the opportunity for peer learning is provided by some group, and taken up by others. Paragogy comes with a built-in immunity to provisionist thinking. As Chapter 3 explains, the emphasis in paragogy is on co-creating the context in which learning and production take place.»
Steve Wheeler said…
My understanding is that Rheingold intended 'peeragogy' to be representative of peer learning across networks. Paragogy, in Corneli's terms on the other hand, is peer learning that has parity - i.e. that is reciprocal.
arided said…
Hi Steve,

For the record my view is that the only novel thing in paragogy is the implicit emphasis on production. Peer learning, peeragogy, and paragogy all have have "parity" built in at the etymology level. Depending on what is understood by "network" that could indeed be very important to developing the theory! There are "relations" between things (per Simondon or Ingold) that give shape to their evolution. How does the "productive" energy of peer-to-peer interaction get related back to something central enough to bring about an evolution or emergence?

What made this work? Polycentric leadership is one key.

(... as Howard remarks in the Foreword to the Peeragogy Handbook).
I'm a mother, not a teacher but i know that kids love interacting with peers, playing games, trying our new stuff together, learning from each others experience, sharing knowledge and making progress. There is always one that leads the game, of course and there are conflicts and piece keepers, but there is progress when they play or make a project together. Great writing:)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments - I agree there are often conflicts and that for me is where the teacher comes in - as an arbiter, facilitator and occasionally, and intervener!

Popular Posts