Participants must bring self-knowledge and no small measure of honesty to the peer-learning project in order to accurately enunciate their motivations. If everyone in your peer learning project asks “What brings me here?” “How can I contribute?” and “How can I contribute more effectively?” things will really start percolating. Test this suggestion by asking these questions of yourself and taking action on the answers!
The primary motivators reported by participants in the Peeragogy project include:
- Acquisition of training or support in a topic or field;
- Building relationships with interesting people;
- Finding professional opportunities through other participants;
- Creating or bolstering a personal network;
- More organized and rational thinking through dialog and debate;
- Feedback about their own performance and understanding of the topic.
Each of those motivators can affect the vitality of the peeragogical process and the end result for the individual participant.
The various motivations also carry some associated risks. For example, if one learner’s motivation includes a desire to make business contacts, he or she may be reluctant to share this with the facilitator and other learners for fear of seeming greedy or commercial. Whether or not potential peeragogues eventually decide to assume these risks depends on various factors.
Cultural or societal factors can also complicate motivations and relationships in the peer-learning environment. Actions that typify inappropriate behavior in one culture might represent desirable behavior in another. In the case of culture, motivations can often come out of the closet through conflict; for example, when one learner feels offended or embarrassed by the actions of another.
Philip Spalding: “The idea of visiting a garden together in a group to learn the names of flowers might have been the original intention for forming a Garden Group. The social aspect of having a day out might be goal of the people participating.”
“What’s my motivation?”
Example: Peeragogy editor Charlotte Pierce
Basically, I’m here because as an early adopter and admitted gadget freak, I find it fun and rewarding to explore new technologies and topics that I feel have a practical or exciting application. But I have some some other motivations that subtly co-exist alongside my eagerness to explore and learn.
Howard Rheingold’s reputation as an innovator and internet pioneer got my attention when he announced his Think-Know Tools course on Facebook in 2012. I had known of Howard from the 1990’s when I was a member of The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link). I was curious to see what Howard was up to, so I signed onto the wiki site, paid my $300, and took the course starting in October.
Looking back, I realize we were practicing Peeragogy throughout the TKT course, though at the time I hardly knew peer learning from a pickle. In late November, missing the camaraderie and challenge of TKT, I stepped over to check out The Peeragogy Handbook.
Which brings me to motivations in signing on to Peeragogy. Since Howard and several Think-Know Tools co-learners were already dedicating their time there and their work looked innovative and exciting, I suspected they might be onto something that I wanted to be a part of. Plus, my brain was primed by the TKT experience. “What if a diverse group of people could learn a subject with little or no cost and not a lot of barriers to entry,” I thought. “What if their own experience qualified them to join, contribute, and learn.”
I also thought there might be a chance to meet some potential business partners or clients there – but if not, the experience looked rewarding and fun enough for me to take the risk of no direct remuneration. There was no cost to me, and a wealth of knowledge to gain – and a way to be part of something new and exciting. These are always big draws for me. I wanted to be in on it, and nobody was telling me I couldn’t!
My projections proved correct. The participants already on board were gracious in welcoming me to Peeragogy, patient in getting me up to speed, and persistent in coaxing me into using the tools central to the project. I connected, learned, grew, and contributed. Now I’m on the brink of starting a peer learning project of my own in my publishing organization, IPNE.org. Stay tuned!
Suppose we wanted to make Peeragogy into a model that can be used in schools, libraries, and so forth, worldwide – and, in fact we do! How can we bring the basic Peeragogy motivations to bear, and make a resource, plan of action, and process that other people can connect with? In brief, how do we build peer learning into the curriculum?
Charlotte Pierce: With success, these could possibly raise awareness while utilizing the existing framework and population of standard education. A curriculum “unit” using peeragogy, for example, or a seminar in a professional development retreat for teachers. It’s not optimum, but it provides an insight from the safety of the existing structure.
One concrete way to implement these broad aims would be to make a peeragogy-oriented development project whose goal is to set up a system of internet cafes, schools, or workshops in places like China or Africa, where people could go to collaborate on work or to learn technical subjects. Students could learn on the job. It seems reasonable to think that investors could make a reasonable profit through “franchises,” hardware sales, and so forth — obviously making money is a motivation that a lot of people can connect with.
In developing such a project, we would want to learn from other similar projects that already exist. For example, in Chicago, State Farm Insurance has created a space called the “Next Door Cafe” that runs community events. One of their offerings is free financial coaching, with the explicit agreement that the issues you discuss return to State Farm as market research.
“Free? Really. Yes, because we’re experimenting. We want to learn what people really want. Then, we’ll shoot those wants back to the Farm. We help you. You help us innovate. We’re all smarter for it. We think it’s a win-win.” –State Farm
Thus, Next Door Cafe forms part of a system to exploit the side-effects of interpersonal interactions to create a system that learns.
A peer learning example from the opposite side of the world started in a slum next to New Delhi where Sugata Mitra gave children a computer and they self organized into a learning community and taught themselves how to use the machine and much more. Repeating this experiment across the globe, Mitra observed:
I think what we need to look at is we need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. If you allow the educational process to self-organize, then learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen. It’s about letting it happen. – Mitra’s TED 2013 Speech
- Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory, Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2011), 34, 57-111
- Simon Sinek, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, Penguin Books, 2011
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