Moving Towards More Peeragogy Learning Experiences For Conferences And Associations

Face to Face I

What if at your next education experience, the speaker gave all the expert-power to the audience?

What if the participants were empowered to take more control of their learning, collaboration and dialogue?

It’s happening in secondary schools, colleges, universities and some education experiences across the globe. It’s peeragogy or paragogy, also known as peer-based learning.

Defining Peeragogy

In short, peeragogy is peer-based learning or learning from each other. It acknowledges the power of bi-directional peer relationships in facilitating professional and personal growth. It is the exact opposite of a lecture which is one-directional from the expert to the student.

Peeragogy’s is founded in Malcolm Knowles‘ principles of andragogy, the art and science of how adults learn. It has its roots in the deeper reflection that occurs when peers exchange ideas, thoughts and insights on specific topics. Peer-based learning also serves as a catalyst of contrasting perspectives that can generate arguments about interpretation, meaning and the application of the topic.

Peeragogy leverages three things:

1. The learners’ own expertise

This is crucial because professionals have relevant knowledge and experience to bring to the table. Acknowledging both affirms and motivates the learners.

2. An intrinsic drive to improve

Most (normal and healthy) adults have an innate drive to improve themselves and be helpful to others. It’s part of our makeup. Working with another peer is engaging and supports joint accountability for learning outcomes. When each participant plays the dual role of helper and learner, collaboration is multiplied and learning is more likely to occur.

3. The context

Context-specific issues are important because adults are motivated to solve real-life problems. Addressing real world issues also facilitates the customization of the learning which increases the potential for transfer of learning to occur on the job. Engagement in learning is leveraged when the content is grounded in the learners’ own concerns and circumstances.

A New-Old Alternative

“Get yourself a teacher; acquire a friend to study with you.” Hebrew Book OF Our Fathers.

This principle was written thousands of years ago as part of a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis of the first through third centuries. Orthodox Jewish students still practice peer-based learning today when studying religious texts.

So what is the link between this old approach and the new idea of using peer-based learning with adults in professional settings? It acknowledges the power of two-way peer relationships in learning.

It’s important to note that the subject-matter expert or facts are not omitted in the process. The content is still given to the audience but less time is spent on dispensing information. The emphasis is not on the speaker but the peer-based learning activities. Colleagues are then given the chance to grapple with the content by sharing perspectives, questions, interpretations and make meaning of the content.

RIP Lecture Followed By Discussion

It’s time to elevate our conference and education participants to co-learners with the presenters and facilitators.

It means shifting from the traditional 30-, 60- or 90-minute lecture which may or may not have discussion at the end to peer-based learning format. The simplest thing to do in a conference setting is provide 10-minutes of content followed by 10-minutes of pair-shared discussion. Keep the peer-learning in small pairs or triads so everyone feels engaged

The lecture typically has an ROI of 10% retention for learning. Peer-based learning ROI increases to 80%-90% retention for learning. RIP lecture. Long live peeragogy!

What’s the biggest barrier to implementing peer-based learning in conference and association education? Why do some people feel that peer-based learning does not qualify for certification and credentialing?

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  1. Dave Will says:


    Fun idea! And I’m at risk of turning this into a plug for Peach, but I have to comment anyway… We get new ideas from our clients. This is an idea that came out of one of our clients a couple years back and we ran with it to create Virtual Study Groups as a way of delivering online learning. It starts with a SME, a community and homework, then it leads to weekly discussions facilitated by the SME but where most of the discussion is the participants. I think this is along the lines of what you’re blogging about. Not a lot of people are doing it. It’s a progressive idea, but it is definitely the “what’s next” in online learning.

    Thanks for the post. Love the ideas!


  2. […] Moving Towards More Peeragogy Learning Experiences For Conferences and Associations Share this:FacebookEmailPrintShareStumbleUponRedditDigg   Tags: conference, event, presentations, speakers, tips « Marketing your event’s o… Click here to cancel reply. […]

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  4. Liz Connors says:

    Enjoyed this article. Communication expectations and attention spans globally are changing very rapidly with the explosion of social media and sharing sites allowing nearly everyone to have a voice. It is becoming more important to make programs interactive for the sake of the audience, but also for the sake of the event hosts to harness more audience insight and possibly even gain more tangible meeting outcomes for making better business decisions.

  5. Terri Cheney says:

    Love your take on this, since in practice it can be surprisingly difficult to convey. Many presenters and quite a few participants will SAY that a great deal of what they learn comes from their fellow participants. They may even believe it. (And it is often true!) But they do come to a session to absorb focused content from experts, not random material from colleagues; the activities must be well designed to promote deep processing of the target content. If the activities are frivolous or perfunctory, people are absolutely right to feel cheated.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Love your idea of Virtual Study Groups with an SME in the wings as needed. Great concept. Thanks for reading and sharing that tip too.

      I like how you gave attention to harnessing audience insight through peeragogy. Great point. Glad you added it here.

      Excellent point that activities must be well designed to promote deep processing of target content. Care to expound on deep processing for the readers? Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  6. Terri Cheney says:


    Looking at my comment, I see I probably should have acknowledged some recent experiences strongly coloring my words – not least of which was serving on the selection committee for the regional conference hosted by ASTD-Twin Cities Chapter in October. Since we are an association of training professionals, naturally we are eager to have best practices modeled at our conference, and the proposal form deliberately encourages applicants to spell out how they would engage the participants during their session.

    Nearly every proposal explicitly claimed to describe an interactive session. I guess we can celebrate that the importance of this concept is now widely accepted as an important standard. But I was crushed at how perfunctory many of the learning activities appeared to be. Naturally, specific examples of just leaked out of my brain now that I want to invoke them. I just kept wanting to demand how the supposedly “interactive” elements related to the real world or helping participants *apply* the concepts to situations they were likely to encounter in their jobs.

    Thankfully, no proposals this year promised game-show-type activities. In real life no one ever asks you to formulate your response as a question; they want a specific result that makes their pain go away. If you expect participants to be able to respond to novel predicaments in the real world using your content, you need to give them a chance to practice a few times and test the limits of their new understanding.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for expounding on this for us and giving us context to your comment. It’s truly helpful! I’m grateful that you took the time to write it and share it with us.

  7. Warren Cohen says:

    Mintzberg has been preaching this type of “Peeragogy” for almost 20 years. He states ” Natural reflection on our experiences in the light of conceptual ideas is the most powerful tool we have for management learning”. So he developed “CoachingOurselves”, 90 minute learning meetings for 4-6 people to reflect on and discuss their experiences sparked by ideas and perspectives on various management/leadership topics written by his friends: Schein, Ulrich, Goldsmith, Kotler, Beer, Mintzberg, and others. There are over 70 topics. Full disclosure, I work with Henry in bringing this experiential concept to organizations and managers around the world.


  8. Terri Cheney says:

    Thought the participants in this discussion might find this short article interesting:

  9. […] Peeragogy is peer-based learning or learning from each other. The ROI of peer-based learning is 8 to 9 times more than the lecture.  […]

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