Perspectives and Peers 4, Other Articles

Note: This is a selection from Perspectives and Peers, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

The trend toward more emphasis on multiple perspectives continued with the articles found elsewhere. While only one of three books was supportive of the idea, and only two of three articles downloaded off blackboard were, every relevant peer reviewed article unqualifiedly supported the value of multiple perspectives in constructing rationality. On peer interaction the out-of-class reading split down the middle, with half completely for and half somewhat against.

Unsurprisingly, articles supporting the importance of peer interaction in rationality can be easily found. Under the heading of “Man as Collectively Rational,” Shulman note that “it is precisely the opportunities provided to amplify and elaborate individual human reason through collective deliberation and action that constitute the least appreciated vehicles for overcoming the bounding of rationality, whether for learners, teachers, or researchers” (515-516). The authors use markets and theaters as examples of environments that encourage rationality because of the multiple perspectives inherent in those domains.

Both theaters and markets possess both more and less powerful “peers,” so it is not surprising that other articles also support non-peer or unequal peer interaction as scaffolding to rationality. Before retelling case studies that involve the creation of”a new way of explaining” (that is, a more rational epistemology), Driver et al (1994) note that they have used “dialogic interactions between the teacher and individuals, or small groups of students. In these interactions, the adult (or a more competent peer) provides…. ‘scaffolding’ for the students’ learning as they construct new meaning for themselves” (10). In a situation such as this, multiple perspectives are generated by peer interaction is much less important than the non-peer interaction in constructing rationality. This same view is baked up by Hursh and Borzak (1972), who talk about cognitive development and learning multiple perspectives, which they call “decentering” (70), during actual internship experiences.

At the other extreme, some research has looked only at equal peer interaction and found it valuable. For instance, comparing student performance in two-student dyads as opposed to individual work, Schwartz (2005) found that “dyads constructed abstractions well above the rate would expect given a ‘most competent member’ model of group performance” by negotiating “a common representation that could serve as a touchstone for coordinating the members’ different perspectives on the problem” (321). Instead of looking at the world in right-and-wrong terms, students acted and thought more rationally because they had to deal with others at their same power level.

A compromise may be found page in Frank et al. (1992). Unlike the previous writers, Frank and her co-authors do not dismiss interaction between equal peers as such. Instead, they argue that peer interaction as well as student-teacher interaction is important. In their work, different natures “of the students and the relationship between students and teachers contribute to the acquisition of multiple perspectives…” (230). Here, peer interaction seems just as important as non-peer interaction.

Perspectives and Peers, a tdaxp series:
Perspectives and Peers 1. Introduction
Perspectives and Peers 2. Books Assigned in Class
Perspectives and Peers 3. Articles Assigned in Class
Perspectives and Peers 4. Other Articles
Perspectives and Peers 5. Interview with the Subject
Perspectives and Peers 6. Conclusion
Perspectives and Peers 7. Bibliography
Perspectives and Peers 8. Interview with Mark Safranski

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