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 yourself and taking action on the answers!
Some of 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 by networking;
Creating or bolstering personal connections;
More organized and rational thinking through dialog and debate ;
Feedback about their own performance and understanding of the topic.
We’ve seen that different motivations can affect the vitality of the peeragogical process and the end result for the individual participant. And different participants definitely have different motivations, and the differences can be surprising: for instance, if you’re motivated by social image, you may not be so interested in reciprocity, and vice versa . Motivations come with associated risks. For example, one may be reluctant to mention business aspirations in a volunteer context for fear of seeming greedy or commercial. Whether or not potential peeragogues eventually decide to take on the risk depends on various factors. Actions that typify inappropriate behavior in one culture might represent desirable behavior in another. Motivations often come out of the closet through conflict; for example, when one learner feels offended or embarrassed by the actions of another.
When it comes to primary motivators, it seems some people are more motivated by the process and some people are motivated by the end result. A lot of the motivations mentioned in the list above are process-oriented. A process orientation is exemplified in the following quote:
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.”
The basic dichotomy between process and product can be a source of tension. Some people are OK with a process that is long and drawn out – because they’re mostly there for the process itself anyway. Others will only tolerate with a slight delay as long as the important end result remains in sight. Without a clear understanding and a good balance between these different core motivators, there will be conflict.
People often come to a collaboration with their own motivation in mind (with more or less clarity from case to case). They don’t always step back to realise that other people are coming from the point of view of another often very different motivation. It never hurts to ask, especially when conflict rears up. Accordingly, especially for those readers who are interested in the end results and applications of peeragogy, and not yet steeped in the process, here’s what we ask:
What are the problems you’re grappling with? How do you think “peer learning” and “peer production” could help you? Would you be willing to share some of the techniques that you use, and to learn together with us?
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 here 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 up front cost to me, and a wealth of knowledge to gain as a 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, providing new 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 – and obviously making money is a motivation that most people can relate to.
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.
State Farm Insurance: “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.”
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.
Sugata Mitra: “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.”
In 2014, we tried a similar experiment. We asked: Can we build a “Peeragogy Accelerator” for a half-dozen peer learning projects, each of which defines their own metrics for success, but who come together to offer support and guidance, using the Peeragogy Handbook as a resource? We tried that with several our own projects, and benefitted from the peer support. Several months later, we found the Accelerator format even more exciting when we ran a one-off series focusing on Sagarika Bhatta’s research on adaptation to climate change in Nepal. Our sense is that peeragogy could be useful for building a global support network around just about any project. Peeragogy can support a culture of real engagement, rather than “clicktivism,” and the direct exchange of critically-assessed effort rather than often-inefficient donations of cash .
Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 57-111.
Jérôme Hergueux (2013). Cooperation in a Peer Production Economy: Experimental Evidence from Wikipedia, talk presented at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Kevin Edmonds (2012). Beyond Good Intentions: The Structural Limitations of NGOs in Haiti. Critical Sociology, 39(3).