After months of ideation and conceptual design, we are in the final stages of building the peer review system. The dynamic design process has resulted in the development of a makerspace for teachers currently called the Process Lab. The Lab, which is an open plug-in, allows any learning platform to incorporate both formative and summative peer feedback. As with all technical design projects, coming together with a shared vision, ideating on how to build the system to meet the needs of identified users/stakeholders that effectively creates a trusted space for learners (in our case teachers) has both opportunities and challenges. The structure of the DML competition provided an unique collaboration across diverse organizations that served to broaden and challenge our understandings of trust. That challenge changed our notions of what we were building and it led us to reimagine the Learning Center as a dialogic platform.
The term “dialogic” draws directly from the work of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin’s, The Dialogic Imagination (1919) - as Wikipedia entry summarizes well here:
“For Bakhtin, all language — indeed, all thought — appears as dialogical. This means that everything anybody ever says always exists in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response. In other words, we do not speak in a vacuum. All language (and the ideas which language contains and communicates) is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless redescriptions of the world” (Wikipedia, retrieved 5/5/16).
So — how does this term apply to building and ensuring trust in learning platforms?
Drawing from our knowledge of Bakhtin’s literary circles, we began to design a space for teachers that encourage a different type of peer review. Instead of an assessment of artifacts, we promoted collaboration and dialogue among peers that focused on the complexity of teaching, from curriculum to pedagogy to student learning. Teaching is inherently dialogic, yet many teachers continue to work in a vacuum, and this platform is designed to address the isolation.
Feedback for teachers about their work and teaching practice, however, was missing from the platform and needed to become central to our work. Trust equates to the ability for teachers to interact with one another, find relevant resources and to share work with a trusted community. This community would:
Provide constant support.
Extend effective practices.
As part of our involvement with the DML competition, we recently had the good fortune to be interviewed by The Aspen Institute, and the conversation started with our decision to focus on peer collaboration and review. How did peer review address trust on our current platform? Why did we decide to focus on peer review? Many learning communities try to incorporate some peer review, so how was our approach different? Because of the VIF Learning Center’s rapid growth, peer collaboration was an imperative to ensure we did not encounter the problems that most MOOCs face: one-way transmission of content with little interaction among learners, and decreasing participation in the community.
How we are addressing these questions, and where we are now:
Our focus is for teachers to have tools that allow them to have choice in what they make, and how they demonstrate the teaching and learning that best reflects the complexity of these processes. Also, peer feedback must focus primarily on the formative process, not just on summative outcomes.
We are using the Process Lab in our current work as we build out a space where teachers join inquiry groups and have opportunities to engage in building collective competencies toward shared learning goals. This will not impede their opportunities to pursue individual interests and pathways — it simply acknowledges that this can’t occur in isolation.
We are circling back around to the collective badges conversation as well. How do we move away from individualism and move toward building collaborative cultures? How can we use badges to build supportive cultures? Our developer is laying the groundwork to allow for user choice in building groups and deeper collaboration (Hanford, 2016).
In a time of increased focus on technical development to provide personalized learning, we cannot forget that teaching and learning is a social experience dependent on dialogue and shared knowledge.
Please follow us at www.viflearn.com (@vifglobaled) where we will post updates and access to resources! We’d love any feedback and thoughts that can help us move this work forward.