Peer Learning with the Peeragogy technique

October 17, 2014  |  Online Education | E-Learning  |  Share

Peergogy Overview


Peergogy is a new synthesis of peer learning and EDUCATION. The essence of peergogy is a group of peers working together with each other to learn new material or produce a project, as opposed to working with a central authoritative teacher. Peergogy takes advantage of the rapport and trust that peers have for one another to combine the abilities of many students into one powerful force. Peer learning has several advantages over traditional learning. Peer learning makes use of feedback cycles- studies show that teaching another person is one of the best ways to retain information, meaning that as peers teach each other, everyone learns rapidly and retains more information than they would in a traditional classroom. Peer learning’s decentralized nature also means it is amenable to adaptation through Internet media, such as discussion boards, interactive online exercises, and videoconferencing. The “class” meets whenever two or more peers discuss the material, and this discussion need not require physical meetings. This expands access to peer learning education beyond the audience wealthy enough to afford traditional education beyond the minimum. 

A team at has released a handbook and project guide to peeragogy called the Peeragogy Handbook. This handbook strives to instruct the reader in how to form a peergogy group and learn together, addressing problems that may arise and providing resources for those who wish to learn more. The handbook is a collaborative effort which anyone may edit, similar to Wikipedia; in fact, the handbook itself qualifies as an exercise in peergogy. The intended audience of the Peergogy Handbook is interested learners who want a road-map, inspiration, or some specific advice about creating a peerogogy group and keeping it going. The handbook delineates various activities and tasks to keep the group focused- especially for larger groups and for groups collaborating over the Internet rather than in PERSON, motivation can be a real problem. One solution is to engage every member of the group with unified goals, such as learning a specific skill or reaching a certain milestone. It is easier to create and keep interest through short-term, specific goals rather than nebulous long-term ones.

The handbook team centered their work around four central questions: the problem of how the group decides what to learn, the problem of how to select and then find trustworthy resources about the chosen topic, the difficulty of maximizing the group’s utilization of technology and social media to enhance collaboration, and the right level of background knowledge about the theory of learning. The team then constructed project frameworks to guide learner groups through solving these problems through an APPLICATION of peergogy principles. These project frameworks lay out specific plans for helping groups solve the above problems by walking them through applications of peergogy. For example, the first project asks the group to write a plan for what they plan to learn and how they plan to learn it, including what technology they can take advantage of to maximize their retention and collaborative abilities.

As the Peeragogy Handbook Project points out, many recent and successful project exemplify the principles of peergogy. The most well-known of these is Wikipedia, the collaborative and open-access encyclopedia. Anyone can become a Wikipedia contributor, and the organization maintains rules about acceptable sources, bias, and formats to keep article structure consistent while still allowing contributors some leeway in what they may add to articles. Wikipedia has different subsections and series of articles, which provide the smaller-scale goals that motivate most contributors. After all, it is easier to find people with deep knowledge of one specific topic than with deep knowledge of a broad range of topics. The Wikipedia system unifies people who share interest in one area and helps them collaborate with one another, building small communities centered around maintaining content for certain topics. 

The other major peer-driven project that inspired the Peeragogy Handbook is Linux, the open source operating system for computers. Linux has spawned countless spinoffs and derivatives, each trying to push the limits of computer science or accomplish a specific goal for the user experience. The open SOURCE NATURE of Linux means that, like Wikipedia, anyone can change it. Unlike Wikipedia, there are no moderators or administrators to enforce rules. Linux is a truly peer-based system, with all programmers acting as equals to produce the final product. If a person or group has an idea, they can simply modify the existing Linux code to try the idea out. Linux programmers learn from each other and build upon previous work, with the end result being a vast array of Linux distributions and applications. Each of them was coded by a group of peers looking to make a change together.

It is clear that peergogy is capable of leading peer groups through large-scale projects. Every Linux programmer, Wikipedia contributor, or other peergogy participant learns by doing and by teaching others. The synthesis of many different perspectives allows for a free-form and highly adaptable project team that can produce a vast, centralized repository of knowledge like Wikipedia or an array of operating systems like Linux. The central link is the idea that the best way to learn and accomplish is to work in groups with trusted peers, leveraging technology to permit as open access to the peer group as possible. That way, every member of the peer group can make use of the strengths and specialties that each brings to the table. Not everyone in a peer group is an expert, but they don’t need to be one to contribute to and learn from the group. The power of peergogy makes momentous projects possible and unites people around the world in learning.


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