“What if…” Questions to Re-imagine Learning Environments Through the Lens of Participant Pedagogy

This post is part of a series of reflections informed by my participation in the 2013 Mooc Mooc at Canvas.net. Today we are exploring participant pedagogy, what Howard Rheingold calls peeragogy (also called paragogy) and related themes.  Below are first reflections followed by a a list of “what if…” questions intended to help us imagine what a learning environment informed by participant pedagogy might look like.  After reading the list, please add more “what if…” questions in the comment section.  For more resources on the subject, consider reviewing the rich content provided in the peer-developed Peer-to-Peer Learning Handbook.

Many of the readings and resources on the subject invite us to reconsider the power structures and dynamics in various learning environments. Rather than the teacher being responsible for all aspects of the planning, prescribing, and assessing; participant pedagogies re-imagine and redistribute these functions. In some cases, it may be helpful to completely remove the word “teacher” from the discourse. The teacher in unnecessary in one sense. That does not mean that that the roles and responsibilities carried out by the teacher in a traditional pedagogical framework are unnecessary. Instead, it means that that those roles and responsibilities can be fulfilled by all or various participants in a learning community.  As a result, peer-to-peer learning environments challenge us to reconsider traditional notions of teacher and student.  Participant pedagogy and peeragogical notions invite us to reconsider learning environments by asking questions like the following:

  • Instead of the instructor pre-developing the syllabus, what if learners (including the instructor as a “co-learner”) developed the syllabus together?
  • Instead of the instructor taking the full responsibility to assess the learners, what if the learner’s established methods and criteria for assessments?  What if learners self-assessed and peer-assessed?  What if assessment was something that learners did as part of the learning process and not something that an instructor does to them?
  • What if learners developed ways to crowd-source the feedback loops that allow them to check their progress?
  • What if learners differentiated the learning environments themselves by contributing individual and group learning objects and resources that turned into a continually growing repository for other participants?
  • What if the rules of the “class” or learning environment “read and write” and not “read online”?
  • In a game-based learning experience, what if the participants themselves established the rules of the game or had the ability to change the rules of the game mid-play?

I offer these questions as a starter point, but in the spirit of peer-to-peer learning, what do you have to contribute to the list?

Posted in blog, e-learning, education, MOOC, Open Learning

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, host of the MoonshotEdu Show, professor of education, AVP of Academics, and Chief Innovation officer. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about futures in education, educational innovation, alternative education, and nurturing agency and curiosity.

8 thoughts on ““What if…” Questions to Re-imagine Learning Environments Through the Lens of Participant Pedagogy

  1. jankenb2

    Morphing in a mooc.
    What if the assessment tool in a mooc was based on the learner’s demonstration to analyze and synthesize knowledge generated, shared, constructed, or revealed in that mooc? The artefact would link self-selected content believed connected to key question posed in the current mooc with posts/contributions by peers, including a visual graph mapping links to each element, and an audio/written/performed/constructed narrative of why this content contributed to new knowledge learned. The project could be a digital artefact of a performance, a concrete artefact, or any other form of digital representation, or a text.

    The final task would be to offer the community a new key question and provide rational for a subsequent mooc or CoP discussion problem. In this way, the “unknown, unknowns” (Donald Rumsfeld) may reveal themselves and morph into unknown, knowns.

  2. Zen Parry

    What if you allow the participants to design and implement the assessment tools then decide on final ‘grades’ for the course?

    (Having done this, the results are startling and might frighten traditional academics.)

  3. sigrist

    What if, in a community study group, all students, or at least a group, have to propose, at the end of the session, more related topics? The study could go deeper and deeper.

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