Cognitive Perspectives on Peer Learning

Cognitive Perspectives on Peer Learning

Cognitive Perspectives on Peer Learning

Cognitive Perspectives on Peer Learning

Synopsis

The contribution of this volume to the literature on peer learning is its focus on approaches that reflect a common concern with cognitive processes based in developmental, information processing, or more generally, constructivist perspectives on peer learning. Although the clear importance of the social context of peer learning is not ignored, the volume's emphasis is on the cognitive growth that occurs within the learning environment.

Any discussion of peer learning involves consideration of who is learning, how the role of peers with whom one works can be conceptualized, what it is that peers learn together, what changes as a result of the interaction, and how we can know what occurs in groups or what has been learned. The chapters in this book speak to these questions. The key question underlying many of these others is why we should worry about the intricacies of peer interaction. Both the practical and theoretical reasons for doing so are delineated.

The developmental theory presented in the Introduction lays the foundation for the later descriptions of specific techniques, though many of the techniques reflect a range of other influences as well. Part I presents the implications of the work of two major theorists in cognitive development, Piaget (Ch. 1) and Vygotsky (Ch. 2). In Part II, six chapters describe a variety of peer learning techniques or models of collaboration, many of which are influenced by the work of Piaget and Vygotsky. The chapters in Part III consider the role of the teacher and the skills needed when using peer learning as an instructional strategy. The Conclusion points to areas in which further research is needed.

This volume is based on original papers presented by the contributing authors in November 1996 at the Rutgers Invitational Symposium on Education on Cognitive Skills and Learning With Peers.

Excerpt

The goal of this book is to contribute to the literature on peer learning by focusing on approaches that are concerned with the cognitive processes underlying peer learning. The contents reflect a common concern with cognitive processes from developmental, information processing, or more generally, constructivist perspectives on peer learning. Because any text must address only a portion of the potential work available, we have not focused on the social aspects of peer learning. Although the social context of peer learning is clearly important, the focus of the book was less on the social aspects of the learning environment and more on the cognitive growth that occurs. We did not focus on the sociocultural influences on learning, although we also acknowledge the importance of relevance of such concerns. Both the social-motivational and sociocultural approaches to peer learning are well represented in the published literature (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Resnick, Levine, & Teasely, 1991). The three parts of the book focus on (a) cognitive developmental theories underpinning many approaches to peer learning; (b) particular instantiations of cognitive approaches to peer learning; and (c) implications of cognitive perspectives on peer learning for teachers, teaching, and teacher education.

Any discussion of peer learning involves consideration of who is learning, how the role of peers with whom one works can be conceptualized, what it is that peers learn together, what changes as a result of the interaction, and how we can know what occurs in groups or what has been learned. The chapters in this book speak to these questions. The key question underlying many of these others is this: Why should we worry about the intricacies of interaction? There are both practical and theoretical reasons for doing so that are delineated in this book.

Peer learning or peer interaction is the subject of study in a wide variety of disciplines and for different purposes and may be considered from the perspectives of developmental psychology (social justice, play), social psychology (e.g., person . . .

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