Peeragogy Techniques: Doing Cooperative Work

November 6, 2014  |  Online Education | E-Learning  |  Share

 

Part VII of the Peeragogy Handbook addresses cooperation. The first chapter of this part concerns co-facilitation. Having learners and workers facilitate one another’s growth is an important part of group work, but it is not easy to strike the right balance between working with each other and working for each other. The same issues that threaten group progress in other areas appear in facilitation too- having too much or too little structure can be, respectively, stifling or demotivating. The authors suggest using Wikipedia’s five pillars as the starting point for directing co-facilitation. Wikipedia has built a vast network of information using simple guidelines for work in a context that depends on cooperation and co-facilitation.

The next chapter examines workscapes. Workscapes are loosely-defined working environments. They are more than just the four walls of an office- they include any context in which the worker is productive and learns, whether that be their office, an online community, private contemplation, or travel abroad. Everyone has their own workscape, and this chapter explains that allowing individuals to learn in their own workscape is the best way to help them. Workscapes are the natural habitat of the learning person. Providing some basic features to workers can enhance their workscapes and their productivity. These include profiles, an activity stream, wikis, virtual meetings, blogs, bookmarks, mobile access, and social networks. The advantage of a powerful, connective workspace is that the worker can make use of their connections to others to work faster and smarter. Few workers truly work alone- almost everyone consults with friends, families, or coworkers when they come across a difficult problem. Workscapes are a way to make those connections easier to leverage into work.

The next chapter concerns participation. Participation of members is one of the hardest tasks of any group- it is difficult to get passive people to jump in, and prevent active personalities from dominating every conversation. The Peeragogy Handbook provides some strategies to guide participation. Some of these include being ready to accept that some people won’t want to participate that much, that deadlines should be targets and not iron goals, engage everyone in regular meetings, and being open to new members. The key ingredient in all of these is flexibility- the organizers need to be flexible to accommodate the wide variety of working styles, learning styles, and participation levels that they will encounter during the course of a peer-driven endeavor.

The last full chapter in the cooperation section deals with co-learning and co-working. The authors argue that co-learning and co-working are substantively different from working and learning. One key insight is that among even the most famous peer-driven projects like Wikipedia and Linux, generally, only a small proportion of the developers are responsible for the largest share of the work. For example, for Wikipedia, about 2 percent of the editors make nearly 80 percent of the edits. This kind of imbalance in peer organizations is a natural phenomenon. The organizers of such a group need to be aware of this fact, and to expect that they may have an extremely active minority group that does much of the work. The authors also use the example of PlanetMath, a Wikipedia-style collaborative resource for mathematics. PlanetMath uses some similar structures to Wikipedia articles and groups, but organizes them in a way that will be helpful to new site users and people inexperienced with mathematics. Building the site required developing a kind of language of work, in which different topics could become part of one whole project, just as words become sentences. Co-learning and co-working in such a context can take on several different forms, such as reciprocity vs group selection. Different peer works will develop different ways of agglomerating the contributions of their individual members into the whole project.

The principal learnings of this section teach the reader that peeragogy requires considerable flexibility to accommodate the different participating learners, but enough guidance to ensure that all members will work together in a mutually fulfilling environment. Not every member will contribute a major part of the final project, but as long as everyone involved is adding value, then the project is successful.

 

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