Sunday, October 30, 2011

Be the Church

Sunday, October 16, 2011

7 compelling arguments for peer learning

 
Learning lurches between extremes: the formal v informal,didactic v discover , self-paced v social, teaching v learning. But is there a bridgebetween these extremes, something that cleverly combines teaching and learning?Over the years, starting with Judith Harris’s brilliant (and shocking) work onpeer pressure, then Eric Mazur’s work at Harvard but also through severalpresentations at a recent JISC E-assessment conference, I’ve been smitten bypeer learning. The idea is to encourage learners to learn from each other. Compellingarguments?
 
1. Powerfultheoretical underpinning
 
The bible for ‘peer’ pressure, and why parents and teachersshould know about this stuff, is Judith Harris’s wonderful The Nurture Assumption, the work for which she received the GeorgeMiller Medal in psychology. StephenPinker sang her praises in The BlankSlate, and claimed that she had turned the psychology of learning on itshead. I think he’s right. In a deep look at the data she found somethingtotally surprising, that far from parents and other adults, like teachers, influencingthe minds of young people, she found that 50% was genetic, just a few per centparents and a whopping 47% peer group. The initial evidence came fromlinguistics, where children unerringly pick up the accents of their peer group,not their parents (I know this from experience).
 
2. Massively scalable
 
Given the massification of education, here’s an interestingargument. Peer learning may actually be better with large classes, as you havemore scope in terms of selected peer groups. As many struggle with thechallenge of large classes, here’s a technique that amplifies both teaching andlearning. Peer reviewing and learning works because it is scalable, especiallywhen good web-based tools are used.
 
3. Learning byteaching is probably the most powerful way to learn
 
Unsurprisingly, to teach is to learn, as peer learninginvolves high-order, deep-processing activity. In fact, the teacher mayactually gain more than the learner. In any case, the peer’s voice is oftenclearer and better than teacher’s voice as they are closer to the mindset ofthe learner and can often see what problems they have, as well as solutions tothose problems.
 
4. Encouragescritical thinking
 
You can easily see how peer learning produces diversity ofjudgement. It is this enlargement of perspectives that is the starting pointfor critical thinking and complex reasoning, the very skills that Arum foundlacking in his recent research in the US.. It also increases self-evaluation.
 
5. Group bonding aside effect
 
In addition to enhanced social and communication skills,peer groups bond. In one nursing case study at the University of Glasgow, thestudents started off a bit sceptical but soon demanded and volunteeredparticipation.
 
6. Dramatic drops indrop-out rates
 
In all the case studies I saw, higher attendance and lowerdrop-out rates were claimed. This is not surprising, as continuing failure anddisillusionment are often the result of isolation and a feeling of helplessnessin learners, especially in large classes and courses.
 
7. Higher attainment
 
Mazur has recorded some startling improvements, not only inthe core understanding of physics, but in general measured attainment throughsummative assessment. The peer learning was, in effect, the result of cleverformative assessment. In a nursing course, they experienced better note takingand higher attainment and in a psychology course with 550 students, reciprocalpeer critiques also led to higher attainment.
 
Problems?
 
Do students muck about? Apparently not, in the case studiesI’ve seen the groups self-moderate. Indeed, the peer pressure preventsdisruptive and non-participatory behaviour. It becomes cool to participate.
 
How do you know they’re not feeding each other false things?There’s certainly the danger of the blind leading the blind, but overall, thecase studies show that real growth occurs. There’s real peer pressure in termsof not being exposed and not bullshitting the others. The approaches and toolshelp overcome this danger through the clever selection of mixed-ability, peergroups.
 
Of course there’s a difference between peer marking and peerreview. Some advise against peer marking as it can be seen as a step too far,peer review, with constructive comments, however, seems to be more powerful.
 
Peer tools
 
You don’t actually need any tools to get started. As Mazurhas shown, simple coloured cards that allow students to respond to theteacher’s diagnostic questions can be enough to spark peer group learning. He actuallyuses clickers, with histograms appearing on the screen, but mobile phones areincreasingly being used for this function. However, for more technology-driven peerlearning, Aropa, Peerwise or Peermark can be used.
 
Aropais an open source tool from the University of Glasgowthat allows teachers to set assignments then set up peer reviews betweenstudents. You review other students’ work, then receive reviews on your ownwork.
 
 
Peerwiseis a free tool from NZ that flips assessment andallows students to create questions, share and see answers, a sort ofpeer-based, formative assessment generator. I like this angle as building goodquestions really does make you think in depth about the subject. It’s used byhundreds of institutions.
 
 
Peermark allows instructors to write assignments, fromturnitin, the plagiarism folks. You set dates, can see how many assignmentshave been submitted, set how many students you want to review each assignmentand whether you or the students choose what to review, pair up students, addreview questions, reorder them. There's a nice video demo here..
 
 
Conclusion
 
I’m really convinced that this moves us on. We have tobounce teachers and learners out of that mindset that sees teaching as one tomany and adopt the wisdom of the network. Pamela Katona at the University ofUtrecht showed that students are less than satisfied with the teaching andfeedback they receive. So many learners wait too long for feedback, receivecursory feedback, don’t have access to the marking scheme and often don’t seethe final marked paper.
 
Arum, in AcademicallyAdrift, has presented good research to show that critical thinking, complexreasoning and communications skills are all too lacking in our universities. Sohere’s a technique that moves us on, combing the best of teaching with the bestof learning. All it takes is just that first step towards student interactivityand participation. And, to repeat, it’s SCALABLE, indeed, the more the merrier.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

do it anyway!

  
People are often unreasonable and self centred.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of alterier motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
 
 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
 
Mother Teresa, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Here's to the crazy ones

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Extravagant God

from Simon

Extravagant God

Excessive
Generous
lavish God …
why do you waste so much time on us?
You create rainbows that no one sees;
shower down intricate separate unique
stunning autumn leaves by the billions
and one at a time
that we greet not with applause
but with complaints of inconvenience.

You place whales beneath fathoms of ocean
singing their plaintive haunting songs
too deep for our ears to hear.

You create fantastic jungles within a square foot of grass
a universe in an atom
breathtaking places that have never been seen or appreciated
by a single human being.

Why are we so bored and dull?
Why do we appreciate water most in the desert
health only during sickness
our friend when he leaves
our love when she dies?

Should we pray for less
for you to ration Your grace
to waste no rainbow?
Forgive us.
You don’t paint rainbows just for us to see
nor make birdsong just for us to hear.

Rebuke our terrible pride
and chastise our deism
that imagines You created only once
long ago
and can’t perceive Genesis now
or Eden here
or what a new day means.

Help us to do two impossible things:
to take it ALL in
(every miraculous atom of it)
and to waste our time on a rose
a place
a time
a person.
Perhaps one will bring us all
full time to eternity
one blackbird to You.

Prodigal God, may we find
a millionth of the joy that clearly is yours

Amen

This entry was posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011 at 9:08 am and is filed under Spirituality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

How we live and buy?

About me

I am an African living in Scotland. A son, a father, an ex-husband, a boyfriend, a teacher and friend trying to piece together the stories that my God, my parents, my ex-wife, my girlfriend, my pupils and my friends are telling me, so that I can tell my own story. Thanks to all for your support and advice. I still love good coffee and popcorn.

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