Peeragogy: Self Organized Peer Learning in Networks | Beth's Blog

Peeragogy: Self Organized Peer Learning in Networks

Instructional Design

Photo by Aussiegal

My dream is to see more robust informal peer learning networks in the nonprofit sector.

As a trainer,  I’m intensely interested in creating learning experiences that integrate or about how to use the technology for nonprofits that engage and inspire people to put the ideas into practice.    I’ve been obsessed with peer learning and self-directed learning models in my own learning and the trainings I design and facilitate.

The term Peeragogy came fluttering through my network, like a butterfly, and it caught my interest.  It resonated.  When an idea or concept makes me want to scuplt it out of mash potatoes,   I pay attention.

Peeragogy comes from Howard Rheingold via his Social Media Classroom and he explains it here:

When I participated in the Change: Education, Learning, and Technology MOOC, I grew even more interested in the intersection of digital media/networks with self-directed learners and collaborative learning methods. I knew that I wasn’t the first person to explore this space, and I was fortunate that Charley Danoff was in my second cohort of online co-learners. Danoff, it turned out, had written a paper on “Paragogy” with Joe Corneli (who coined the term). When I started talking to people about this exciting idea, some of them inevitably mishear it as “peeragogy.” Although “paragogy” is a more rationally derived word that extends “pedagogy” (teaching children) and “androgogy” (teaching adults), I’ve started calling it peeragogy because many people get the point as soon as I use the word.

UC Berkeley Regents’ Lecture: Howard Rheingold (Presented by Berkeley Center for New Media) from Berkeley Center for New Media on Vimeo.

On Monday,  Rheingold delivered the UC’s Regents Lecture, “Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy” prior to working with a group of students in a seminar and launching a process to  co-construct a peeragogy handbook/sourcebook.

Rheingold published this post as a backdrop to his Monday evening talk.   He talks about the powerful combination of social media and peer learning.    His post reflects on his years of “learning in action” on his instructional practice of  peer-to-peer, global learning via social web.   What struck me was his authentic co-learning process with his students.   He explains it better here:

In retrospect, I can see the coevolution of my learning journey: my first step was to shift from conventional lecture-discussion-test classroom techniques to lessons that incorporated social media, my second step gave students co-teaching power and responsibility, my third step was to elevate students to the status of co-learner. It began to dawn on me that the next step was to explore ways of instigating completely self-organized, peer-to-peer online learning.

The ultimate test of peer learning is to organize a course without the direction of an instructor. Although subject-matter experts and skilled learning facilitators are always a bonus, it is becoming clear that with today’s tools and some understanding of how to go about it, groups of self-directed learners can organize their own courses online.

Howard’s goal is to ignite a a peer-created guide to pure peer-to-peer learning. In preparation for this project,  one of his students has prepared  a peeragogy literature review, based on his links about paragogy.

My questions:

  • How can this idea be best adapted for learners in developing countries that may not enjoy the same level of internet access?
  • How can this idea be best adapted for professional development activities for nonprofit folks?

This should be a fascinating learning  journey.

16 Responses

  1. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 12:20 […]

  2. Fascinating, and synergistic with an ALF staff dialogue this afternoon on Harvard professor Eric Mazur’s “peer instruction” concept.

  3. John Powers says:

    A 2006 blog post from Emeka Okafor’s Timbuktu Chronicles:

    “Souleymane’s new approach to training artisans involves pairing unemployed university graduates, “who think they know everything,” as Souleymane says, with unemployed street youth, “who think they know nothing”. The result is teams of young people capable of launching their own micro-enterprises.”

    I remember feeling quite emotional reading about the pairing. Elementary school teachers have long known that one of the best ways to help struggling older elementary school kids to learn is to have them tutor younger children.

    There’s something very powerful in co-learning situations about a little distance, a small gap between learners, which somehow make these learning relationships thrive.

  4. Beth says:

    Kismet! I read his “don’t lecture me” in the beginning of the year and it inspired this post:

    The learning analytics also got my attention

  5. Beth says:

    Kismet! I read his “don’t lecture me” in the beginning of the year and it inspired this post:

    The learning analytics also got my attention

  6. Annaliese says:

    Beth — I love this idea of peeragogy. Coming from a teaching background, these investigations and practices really excite me, and I think that your questions about how we’d adapt some of these tactics to non-traditional learning environments are key.

    I have another question for you and this discussion — how do we balance the peer and connectedness of learning and information channels with our natural needs of indpendent thinking and problem-solving? There have been a few articles lately talking about the backlash of the super-collaborative culture we’re in now (see this:

    This idea of “quiet” and “alone” time for allowing the brain to really work resonates for me, but I think that really effective approaches would combine the individual learning strategies with peeragogy.

  7. Beth says:

    Annaliese: That is a huge issue – I wrote about that last year and even made my new year’s resolution: balance solitude with connectedness

    The peer learning experiences that I’ve designed often include an action learning project that an individual does alone or within their organization and then shares with their peers. Debbie has been in my learning groups at Packard and can discuss it from the participant end.

    I also think that learning activities should include stuff that learners do alone, self-directed learning like reading an article or writing something. But also include the collaborative learning processes.

  8. Maria Arenas says:

    Beth, many thanks for your clear concepts. Regarding your questions, I exposed on my blog some concepts from Howard´s experience regarding Peeragogy. I found interesting because they reflects a self acknowledgment of this theory that can be considered in both cases you have mentioned in your post. That invites us to reflect out of the box from traditional learning.
    Hope I could help the debate.

    Nice to meet you.
    María Arenas

  9. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 11:42 […]

  10. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 7:52 […]

  11. @briansmcgowan says:

    Thanks for the post!

    I am in the final stages of completing a book on collaborative models of information flow, learning, and innovation and the idea of peeragogy is a core element – though I have not called it this…perhaps a missing thread.

    I believe that patients empowered to participate in peer-to-peer healthcare, physicians contributing to intraprofessional learning communities, and scientists embracing new social, open, and connected research models may be our only pathway to overcoming the information bottlenecks which undermine our healthcare system.

    This post, and Howard’s work, have confirmed that I am on to something special. Thank you!


  12. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 4:55 […]

  13. […] in learning and change processes in their organizations or with their clients. (This reminds me of Beth Kanter’s Peeragogy.) They are on an 8 month learning journey and have been exploring things like social media  (which […]

  14. […] My dream is to see more robust informal peer learning networks in the nonprofit sector.  […]

  15. Beth, I just found your post on a search to see the reach of Peeragogy – did you know that we are publishing v.2 of the Peeragogy Handbook on January 1, 2014, Public Domain Day? And yes – it’s in the public domain! We will be publishing the book through Lightning Source/Ingram Spark, but all content is available to copy, paste, remix, reuse, and amplify. I’d be curious to hear your review of the new version of the book, which is online in its entirety at Thanks for your interest!

  16. Beth says:

    Charlotte: Thanks for letting me know about the publishing plans. I’ll check it out.