This section addresses research practitioners. At a high level, the questions are:
- How can we understand peer learning better?
- How can we do research “the peeragogical way”?
- How do we bring research into our peer learning activities?
We’ll outline three different lines of detailed questioning that expand on these points. These could be studied in many different ways.
Question A. Which activities have the biggest payoff for learners, in terms of our learning model?
The preliminary question is, what is the learning model? For example, our concept map provides one model of “peeragogy” as a subject, but to make this into a “learning model”, we would have to do some further work. What will we accept as evidence of learning or progress?
This is to do with whether we think of learning as something that can happen conceptually, or only “in practice”. In the peeragogy project, we follow the latter view, which is in line with what Peter Sloterdijk says about learning through direct participation:
The consequences of Foucault’s suggestions will only be appreciated if there is one day a fully worked-out form of General Disciplinics — which would probably take a century to develop. Its implantation would require a suitably contemporary transformation of universities and colleges, both in the structuring of the so called ‘subjects’ or ‘courses’ and in the basic assumptions of academic pedagogy — which, against its better judgement, still clings to the briefcase-and-box theory, where teaching and learning is nothing but transferring knowledge from the professor’s briefcase to the students’ file boxes, even though it has long been known that learning can only take place through a direct participation in the disciplines. Establishing an academic system with discipline-based content and methods would at once be the only realistic way to counteract the atrophy of the educational system, founded on a reformed idea of the subjects and tasks of a Great House of Knowledge. 
In general, a discipline will “come with” its own learning model and its own sense of “progress”. Given that we can get ahold of the learning model in our discipline of choice, then we can start to address this first question.
A study plan that puts learners into contact with new concepts and techniques in such a way that they are not overwhelmed, and yet are continually challenged will be the best. For example, this could be done by solving progressively harder problems (and going back to easier ones when you get stuck).
Look at different interaction histories and “add up” the concepts learned and the heuristics used. There are some features of social interaction (like asking questions) that we could use to guess how much people knew in advance.
Question B. Does our instrumentation of the learning model have reasonable fidelity?
In the best possible scenario, we have a detailed model of learning that indicates clearly what people know, and how they got there, where they can go next, and what steps are required. In practice, the model will probably be a bit more sloppy.
The quality of the learning model will be determined by the quality of our underlying representation of “domain” or “disciplinary” knowledge.
If we have a computer-based peeragogy platform that can support “standard” coursework, and a teacher who is willing to run a course using this platform, then we can see whether our instrumentation predicts “traditional” measures of success in the course.
Question C. Which interventions have the biggest payoff?
We should be able to use models of learning effects to test out a wide range of possible interventions.
Make the given intervention, and measure the total impact on learning across the population. (This requires a fairly sophisticated learning model and research apparatus!)
Some further reflections
How you decide to learn, and how you decide to do research, will have some significant influence on the sort of group you convene! If you plan to follow a clearly delineated pre-existing course, maybe you don’t “need” peeragogy. On the other hand, if you’re aiming to build peer support that works, you will definitely want to put some thought into your learning model!
- Sloterdijk, P. (2013). You Must Change Your Life, Polity Press. (Tr. Wieland Hoban)
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