I’ve spent a lot of time in my professional life working with peer programs. From mentorship to communities of practice to unconferences, the notion of peer learning has fast become an attractive and dynamic way to share knowledge and ideas in our professional community. Assessment data and anecdotal evidence shows strong support from my colleagues for this model of learning. People are attracted to learning from peers, to hearing new stories and to having someone else’s hindsight become their foresight.
If everyone is attracted to peer-to-peer dialogue for the learning, who will be the one to teach?
Bringing peers together, by the very definition, often means bringing people together with the same (or very similar) sets of knowledge, skills and/or professional challenges. Everyone coming into the conversation is looking for the same thing and often enter with the same questions.
While there may be a shared empathy and experience, how can we expect peers to feel confident in their ability to teach?
The desire to learn is almost innate for student affairs professionals – we seem to naturally and voraciously seek out new opportunities for personal and professional development, and speak of being a life-long learner in the same way someone else might identify as having a particular hair colour or favourite band.
To learn, then, seems natural. Safe. Comfortable even.
Who will heed to the burden of responsibility that the collection of knowledge has placed on us to share and spread ideas such that they can evolve and be impactful?
Who will step up and be the teacher?
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