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Affinity Partner

Learning Support in WikiQuals

Background; in an earlier post Show & Tell I discussed the concept of journeymen, people who would help triangulate, authenticate, and validate the learning process identified by a WikiSqolar as part of the WikiQuals project. The term, and the concept, were derived from the process by which the learning of apprentices in medieval guilds was validated; however the term is clearly sexist. A number of female academics, such as Catherine Cronin, who expressed interest in being a journeyman/person, because they were happy with the concept, forcefully expressed clear reservations about the terminology.

Thankfully for the project another female academic, Dr Ilene Dawn Alexander of the University of Minnesota, came up with a different term, which also entails slightly differing concepts and roles as we evolve the WikiQuals project. Ilene suggested that Sqolars need Affinity Partners as part of the WikiQuals process and this discussion will examine in a little more detail what we are trying to achieve with the introduction of Affinity Partners.

Wikiquals; to recap what we are examining in the WikiQuals project is how we might implement the idea of post-hoc accreditation in extra-institutional contexts (which is derived from the “formal” phase of the Emergent Learning Model). As suggested by the University Project a University is a ‘Community of Scholars’

or in our, slightly pretentious, case, Sqolars. Our current community of Sqolars are endeavouring to produce doctoral level work in this mode. The current WikiQuals project, or community, have self-organised around the concept of producing a book reflecting their interests to an approximately doctoral level of quality. Individually each Sqolar possibly only needs themselves to clarify and define their stated aim of publishing original work on a subject that interests them.

Critical Friend; However for the WikiQuals project a community of Sqolars needs to emerge, so the WikiQuals process needs more than clear statements of individual aims if it is to be more than an organising principle for a group of friends who want to publish. So we needed some kind of external “critical friend” to help lift WikiQuals beyond a simple shared goal of publishing personal ideas, into the realm of a project that could query how we validate learning and provide some insights into alternatives. This is why we first introduced the concept of a journeyman.

Show and Tell; A Journeyman is someone external to the WikiQuals process who is needed to ensure that the work produced is not self-referential with a value only within the context, and the community, in which it was produced. In medieval guilds a journeyman was someone from another guild who would review the work of an apprentice of a guild “master”, on the basis of a process called ‘show and tell’; show me what you can do and tell me how you do it. This seems a very valid process of quality assurance to me, arguably an early form of wrangling. For WikiQuals Show & Tell and the idea of a journeyman was adopted conceptually to reference other methods of ensuring the quality of work produced by novices in learning contexts. However what we are doing is more complex than graduating from being a guild apprentice and consequently requires the adoption of a number of critical factors; Learning support, dialogical engagement and some process which engages with the validation of quality. As someone tweeted about WikiQuals; how can you have a disembodied learning process? You can’t of course; the Emergent Learning Model calls for an initial social process of self-organisation developing into a learning community.

Learning Support; so any process that guarantees the value and quality of the WikiQuals project necessarily also needs to be involved in providing learning support. On the individual Sqolar pages I have created a framework for measuring this which includes Aims, support and Review. Initially I have been providing the ‘scholarly’ review of Sqolars aims. But as we have developed these review ‘seminars’ the value of a third party with a dialogical, or reflective, role has become increasingly evident; and so the idea of an Affinity Partner has emerged. This idea emerged from a very interesting review session with Kai Graf von Pahlen and Ilene Alexander in Liverpool. Subsequent sessions with Bridget McKenzie, who has had discussions with Pat Kane and particularly Philippa Young in a discussion with Lois Acton has enabled the current idea of an Affinity Parner to develop. Learning Support is the current problem we are trying to solve on the WikiQuals project and a key part of the project is to find out what problems need to be solved in co-creating new models of learning.

Affinity Partner; The idea of an Affinity Partner also reflects Rose Luckin’s idea of a “More Able Partner”(pdf) in the Ecology of Resources model and Sugata Mitra’s use of the “Granny Cloud” for learning in his “Self-Organised Learning Environment”, as well as medieval journeymen. What the term, and the idea, of an Affinity Partner hopes to suggest is that critical friends are also engaged in learning support as there is a shared interest in the outcomes of the Sqolars learning. So here are some initial thoughts, to be developed practically, on the role of Affinity Partners;

a) Supports and discusses the ideas of the Sqolar, providing belief in the value of the work

c) Enables reflection to help both broaden and deepen the work being undertaken, providing a mentoring process

c) Challenges the Sqolar’s work as a critical friend;

d) Reviews the Sqolar’s work providing a moderating process.

Next Steps; We will be identifying and putting in place Affinity Partners for all Sqolars over the next few weeks and will report back on both the practicalities and what we learn anew from this process. Comments on the idea of Affinity Partners are encouraged, welcomed and appreciated 🙂

PS Scholarly Affinity v Academic Brutality; Just had a conversation with a friend over lunch about her recent docotoral Viva which reminded how me brutal and cruel they can be; semi-precious intellectuals gatekeeping academic consumption with a vicious lack of empathy. I’ve had several such experiences, once when I had to defend my Masters course papers before an Oxbridge Don who brutally tore apart my previously acceptable work (largely, I believe, because I had written a paper arguing against a science of social studies inspired by Paul Feyerabend – who later advised me). Recently when the Learner-Generated Contexts Group submitted the Open Context Model of Learning to Open Learn because John Seely Brown called it “the most exciting thing happening in England” to have it rejected by the Open University. Even Noam Chomsky rejected me from his Ph.D in Linguistics and Philosophy because I had, and I quote, “too many ideas” All anecdotes, but all true. The relevant point here is about the value of affinity and empathy in intellectual endeavour as they are both qualities that enable scholarship and which we are planning for.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Designing for Discontinuities « WikiQuals

  2. Pingback: Affinity Groups « WikiQuals

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