Peer-Supported Learning

We define peer learning in its broadest sense as ‘students learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways.’

After watching “Connecting to Something Bigger: The Power of Open, Peer-to-Peer Learning,” I wanted to share my thoughts on the possibilities of peer supported learning and ideas I have for incorporating this type of learning into my own classroom.

An interesting point of discussion that came up during the webinar was whether or not students more highly value teacher feedback or peer feedback.  In my own experience, peer-to-peer feedback can be extremely difficult for elementary aged children.  The webinar brought light to the creation of an environment where students feel safe within their learning community so that they are more inclined to participate in peer-to-peer learning or “an ecosystem where we are all connected learners?” as posed by Paul Oh.  According to Paul Allison, one step to successful feedback is getting your curriculum uploaded to an online forum so that students have access to learning materials in an open space as well as creating a forum where students can upload their work and leave feedback.  I think that using websites such as Edmodo to display student work and receive student feedback would work well.  In addition, a simple way to share information and give feedback is through google docs. I agree with Paul Allison that students need to be taught how to leave proper feedback and need to be reassured that their voices are valuable and that their opinions do matter. Peer-to-peer learning can be incredibly powerful and engaging as long as there is the proper guidance on the part of the teacher and as long as proper groundwork has been established.

Just as one of my inquiry questions is “how can we assess student work in modern methods of student-driven learning?” I feel like the success of student feedback is similar.

Another issue that was discussed during the webinar is the possible fear of judgement that some students may experience when posting their thoughts and work online. How do we get students to feel comfortable with online, peer learning communities? In my fourth grade classroom I have students who don’t even want to read aloud a free write that they created!  I can think of many students who would hesitate to post their work online and it’s important to reassure them that they are part of an open community of learners who are looking to grow and learn.  If students feel as though they are part of a family and if they feel like there is a no judgement zone, then they will be much more likely to take risks.  This is something that must be established from day one in any classroom.  The same goes for students raising their hand in the traditional setting! Additionally, how do we get students who are scared to post their work online comfortable with posting to the web where virtually anyone could have access to it?  These points are all valid, and I believe what may happen is that there will be students who are all about the idea, and posting any any and every chance they can get; and then some kids who shy away from being part of the community.  In the end, they hopefully will soon be able to evaluate their equity in terms of what they are gaining from the experience.

Paul Allison talks about how teaching in a Connected Environment isn’t always easy for the teachers.  He talks about how students like a timeline and a plan, and so there needs to be options for them since to move to the next thing, as they will be on their own asynchronous path.  One thing I really enjoyed towards the end of the webinar was when one participant points out the “eco-chambers” which oftentimes forms within openly networked communities and how connected learning groups can actually become so insulated to the point that they actually promote inequity. One way to combat this, it was suggested, is to create connections with classrooms who are engaging in peer-to-peer learning so that connected learning remains fresh and is constantly being injected with new ideas.

Takeaways from this week:

-Peer-Supported is 1 of Connected Learning’s 3 Learning Principles, along with Interest-Powered and Academically Oriented. Learning in the context of peer interaction is highly engaging and participatory. Today’s digital media tools and Internet communities provide unprecedented opportunities for learners and their peers (and/or mentors) to share interests and provide feedback throughout the learning process.

-Learning is meaningful when it is part of valued social relationships and shared practice, culture, and identity.

Since the start of ED677, I have learned so much from my peers.  What is posted each week on our Blackboard is just a “starting point.”  Most of the great take-aways come from one another’s ideas, feedback, agreements/disagreements, Find 5’s, etc.  The idea that everyone gives a little to the shared community opens the door to this shared world with a common purpose.  Everyone of us takes away something different; perhaps something we find the most connection to, or find the most bizarre, etc.  Whatever the reason, what we take from one another is so valuable and certainly buys us equity in our education!



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