Patterns of Peeragogy

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* Article: Corneli, J., Danoff, C.J., Pierce, C., Ricaurte, P., and Snow Macdonald, L. 2015. Patterns of Peeragogy. HILLSIDE Proc. of Conf. on Pattern Lang. of Prog. 22 (October 2015), 23 pages.


"We use the word peeragogy to talk about peer-led multi-way collaboration in relatively non-hierarchical settings."


"We describe nine design patterns that we have developed in our work on the Peeragogy project, in which we aim to help design the future of learning, inside and outside of institutions. We use these patterns to build an “emergent roadmap” for the project. The primary audience we envision for the paper are teams of people who aspire to collaboratively manage their own free/open/libre learning and development projects."


From the introduction:

"This paper outlines an approach to the organization of learning that draws on the principles of free/libre/ open source software (FLOSS), free culture, and peer production. Mako Hill suggests that one recipe for success in peer production is to take a familiar idea – for example, an encyclopedia – and then make it easy for people to participate in building it. We will take hold of “learning in institutions” as a map, although it does not fully conform to our chosen tacitly-familiar territory of peeragogy. To be clear, peeragogy is for any group of people who want to learn anything."

Peeragogy as a pattern

"* Motivation.

This pattern is relevant to anyone who wants to do active learning together with others in a relatively non-hierarchical setting.

- Context. Collaborative projects like Wikipedia, StackExchange, and FLOSS represent an implicit challenge to the old “industrial” organization of work. This new way of working appears to promise something more resilient, more exciting, and more humane. The rhetoric has been questioned [Shaw and Hill 2014; Kreiss et al. 2011]. In and across these “free”, “open”, post-modern organizations, individual participants are learning [Schmidt 2009] – and that they collectively change the methods and infrastructure as they go. Because everyone in these projects primarily learns by putting in effort on a shared work-in-progress, participants are more in touch with an equality of intelligence than an inequality of knowledge [Rancière 1991, pp. 38, 119]. At the same time, they invoke a form of friendly competition, in which the best craftmanship wins [Raymond 2001, p. 89]. Forces. Threshold: inclusiveness and specificity are in tension.

  • Trust:

is only built through sharing and reciprocity.

  • Problem.

Even a highly successful project like Wikipedia is a work in progress that can be improved to better empower and engage people around the world, to develop richer and more useful educational content, and to disseminate it more effectively – and deploy it more creatively.2 How to go about this is a difficult question, and we don’t know the answers in advance. There are rigorous challenges facing smaller projects as well, and fewer resources to draw on. Many successful free software projects are not particularly collaborative – and the largest projects are edited only by a small minority of users [Hill 2011; Swartz 2006]. Can we work smarter together?

  • Solution.

The act of asking “can we work smarter together?” puts learning front and center. Peeragogy takes that “center” and distributes it across a pool of heterogeneous relationships. Indeed, peeragogy can be understood as an up-to-date revision of Alexander’s NETWORK OF LEARNING [Alexander et al. 1977, p. 99]. It decentralizes the process of learning and enriches it through contact with many places and people in interconnected networks that may reach all over the world. Importantly, while people involved in a peeragogical process may be collaborating on

A SPECIFIC PROJECT, they don’t have to be direct collaborators outside of the learning context or co-located in time or space. Just as theories and practices of pedagogy articulate the transmission of knowledge from teachers to students, peeragogy articulates the way peers produce and use knowledge together.

  • Rationale.

The peeragogical approach particularly addresses the problems of small projects stuck in their individual silos, and large projects becoming overwhelmed by their own complexity. It does this by going the opposite route: explicating what by definition is tacit and employing a continuous design process [Schümmer et al. 2014, pp. 9–10]. As Howard Rheingold remarks in the foreword to the Peeragogy Handbook: “What made this work? Polycentric leadership is one key” [Rheingold et al. 2015, p. iii]. “Peer-led” shouldn’t suggest that there are no leaders: rather, it means that multiple leaders act as peers.

  • Resolution. Peeragogy helps people in different projects describe and solve real problems. If you share the problems that you’re experiencing with others, there’s a reasonable chance that someone may be able to help you solve them. Bringing a problem across the threshold of someone else’s awareness helps achieve clarity. This process can guide individual action in ways that we wouldn’t have seen on our own, and may lead to new forms of collective action we would never have imagined possible. People who gain experience comprehending problems together build trust. Making room for multiple right answers contributes further to resolving the tension between generality and specificity."


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