Zone of Proximal Development theory, where a more knowledgeable other, whether teacher, adult or simply a better informed peer, can extend someone's learning experience beyond what they might achieve alone (Vygotsky, 1978). But peer education can also be reciprocal. In terms of Corneli and Danoff's (2011) and Corneli's (2012) approach - paragogy - anyone can teach anyone else, because everyone knows something, but no-one knows everything. Students can even teach their teachers, in an extreme form of flipped learning I mentioned in a previous post.
It all sounds very democratic, but exactly how might it work?
In paragogy, students can exchange knowledge and can be learning from each other simultaneously. This is not something ZPD theory explicitly takes into account. Whenever I have seen this kind of reciprocal learning occur, it has emerged during intense discussions or more commonly, during collaborative learning, where a small group solve a problem or address a complex issue. Some of the best reciprocal peer learning I have witnessed has been around group production of artefacts such as video production.
The original ZPD concept was intended to be asymmetric - that a novice would be extended in their ability, knowledge or competency by the more knowledgeable other, but only in one direction. It was a formal pedagogical principle. However, the more one teaches, the more it becomes apparent that such lines of demarcation are notional at best, and that peer learning can readily occur informally across small groups, or even entire networks of individuals.
Peer learning is rarely asymmetric, and is not restricted to dyads. But what about peer assessment? I'll develop that question further in my next post...
Corneli, J. and Danoff, C. J. (2011) Paragogy. In: Proceedings of the 6th Open Knowledge Conference, Berlin, Germany.
Corneli, J. (2012) Paragogical Praxis, E-Learning and Digital Media, 9(3), 267-272.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Photo by Primary Source on Flickr
This post first appeared on Learning with 'e's
Learning from each other by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.