Learners themselves can learn by teaching and helping one another. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1) developed the concept of ‘communities of practice’. This refers to groups of people undertaking a common or related activity. Seen through this lens, learning itself is a process of ‘becoming’; of constructing an identity through participation in a community of practice.
The focus on learning as ‘participation’ in a community sees learning as an ‘evolving, continuously renewed set of relations’ (1). Newcomers to any community eventually become ‘old-timers’ (1) and they get there through a continued process of renegotiation (1) of meaning. Taking a decentred view of the master-apprentice relationship, Lave and Wenger suggest that mastery resides in the organisation of the community of practice rather than in the master. This is to say that apprentices learn mostly through relationships with other apprentices: ‘there is anecdotal evidence … that where the circulation of knowledge among peers and near-peers is possible, it spreads exceedingly rapidly and effectively’ (1).
‘Peer learning’ refers to the use of teaching and learning strategies whereby learners learn from one another without immediate intervention from a teacher. Peer learning (and other collective forms of learning) are argued to better suit some learners, although there are pedagogical challenges to its formal implementation (2). There are, additionally, benefits associated with implementing peer learning, including:
- Development of learning outcomes related to collaboration, teamwork, and becoming a member of a learning community;
- Enhanced opportunities for learners to engage in enquiry and reflection, given the absence of a teacher to answer questions directly;
- More practice in communicating subject matter to others, and more experience of having it critiqued by peers on the same learning journey; and
- Better identification by individuals of their own learning needs and development of the ability to plan how these might best be addressed.
- Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Boud, D., Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. (1999). Peer Learning and Assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 24(4).
Lucubrate Magazine August 2019
The Picture on top by ohayou!
The article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)