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Learning Path #2: Why use Peer Learning?

Modified on 2010/04/03 06:51 by Nancy White Categorized as Uncategorized

There are many ways we can, and d,o learn. The question is, when is it useful to adopt a peer learning strategy? What are the benefits? Risks?

Benefits of Peer Learning

  • We learn as we do. As adults, we learn in context, at work and through exchanges with others, including our peers. See Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday, 1990)
  • We learn when it is relevant. We learn in moments of need, challenge or action. Peer learning is flexible.
  • As we age, we rely more on learning in the moment, versus retaining lists of information. Contextual learning is essential.
  • Peer learning builds on formal learning and complement other forms of learning. When we follow up formal learning with informal interaction with peers, we reinforce the learning.
  • Self-managed - we learn when we can fit it in our busy lives.
  • Scalable- it times of limited resources, peers helping peers, expanding from communities and across networks, allows us to use and reuse our learning. See  http://blogs.hbr.org/bigshift/2009/03/can-your-company-scale-its-lea.html
  • Resourceful. Peer learning helps us see the intersections in our work, allowing us to collaborate where useful.

Risks of Peer Learning

  • It can be hard to measure, especially the informal, self directed bits and pieces. This makes it harder to justify the time spent.
  • Peer learning may whither with too much organizational control. It is strongest when driven by the people needing and wanting to learn. While organizational support is useful, it can smother efforts if there is too much required action and control.
  • Peer learning may suffer from lack of learner motivation and/or time. Being too busy, juggling too many priorities removes the time and opportunity for peer learning. What can we STOP doing?

When to Consider Using Peer Learning

  • To solve specific needs and problems and to address opportunities
  • To build new skills and capacity
  • For continued professional development
  • To be connected to other practitioners

Examples of Peer Learning in Libraries

  • Library A produces "how to materials" on resume building. Library B asks to use them. Together through use they find small improvements. Then they share the cost of translating them into Spanish.
  • Librarian A goes to a conference and hears about a project in another state using volunteer coaches to help people transitioning to new jobs use the library to prepare for interviews. She sets up a telephone call with the staff person from that state for other librarians back in the home state to hear about the idea. Two of the home state libraries decide to try a small joint pilot to see if it might work.
  • Librarian B is not happy. He has a new program on his computer that SHOULD be easy to use. It is frustrating her but he is embarrassed to ask one of the younger staff members. He logs on to an email list he belongs to and asks the question where he feels a little more comfortable, and gets the help he needs. Later, he jokes with the younger staff that he had to go to one of his "imaginary online friends" to get help. The younger staff member admits that is exactly what she does. Now they feel more comfortable helping each other.

Process Note: How We'll Use Peer Learning in our work together

The best way to learn something is to DO it. So we will use peer learning to learn with and from each other. This might include:
  • Group telephone calls or web meetings
  • Online places to share materials
  • The Washington State Library blogWashington State Library blog to share stories of our work out to the wider world
  • What else would you like to see?

Identified needs for Peer Learning in Washington State Libraries

It would be great to make this a wiki page where we can start gathering examples and stories. We can harvest from the web meetings and trainings.

Examples and Stories of Peer Learning

* http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/1156

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