One thing about having the right kind of peers – you can’t fool them too much.
This week, I will reflect on a recent experience. The truth is, I was overextended trying to juggle too many balls and allowed a crucial assignment to fall through the cracks. Even though my professor had told us about the task and went over what was expected in class, I guess I was distracted. I had accepted a little side work around Christmas that I could not quite seem to bring to completion.
Here it was. Monday night class. As soon as I walked through the door, my professor informed me of where I was in the order of presentations.
I hadn’t created any brain synapses at all for that assignment. I had totally forgotten about it. Period. But, I was too embarrassed to ask for additional information on the spot. So. I just smiled, thanked my professor, then took my seat. Shortly afterward – the class presentations began.
Peer after peer stood before us and demonstrated their mastery with PowerPoint and Sway. Each presentation was nothing less than spectacular as far as I was concerned. It was truly Ph.D. candidate-level work! I was very impressed.
After each performance, my cohorts had to defend their chosen learning theory and its impact on learning and learners. My peers had provided enough details for me to ask a few questions and give a little peer feedback. I was proud of that too.
Then came my turn. Again, I was too embarrassed to admit to my classmates that I had forgotten about the assignment. So, instead, I pulled up my complete two-page Word document and tried to pretend that I wanted to show the class my summary report so that I could get better feedback on how the research summary was structured. Crickets.
Did not fool a single one. No. Not one.
Then I jumped into my “presentation.” I scrolled here and scrolled there as my project summary was displayed on the whiteboard. I danced back and forth, threw in plenty of attitude and passion, and tried to win the crowd over with charisma. Crickets.
After I finished and opened the floor to questions, my peers tore into me. I had not pulled it off – and they knew it. They pointed out this and that. They recommended this and that. They critiqued this and that. (Thanks, Team.) Then, it was my professor’s turn. Need I say that was indeed an authentic learning experience? Ouch. (Oh, my.)
Moral of the story: When your peers know that you can do better – they usually will make you try.
Saul McLeod (2016) studied the life and works of Albert Bandura (1977) for SimplePyschology.org. McLeod wrote that Bandura was initially a behaviorist, but became disgruntled. Bandura got to a point he could no longer excuse the gaps that “reward-and-punishment” approaches often left open. He began to theorize that “reward-and-punishment” as motivation in and of itself did not lead to real learning. Not according to Merriam-Webster’s definition of learning, which is: “knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study.”
Bandura felt compelled to answer the two fundamental questions about learning:
- What is the impact of the mediating processes that occur during conversations and responses?
- Is behavior learned from one’s environment through observation?
Bandura’s two questions have led him on the adventure of defining his widely accepted Social Learning Theory, which has rocked the field of cognitive science. Not since the discovery of Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development has epistemology been so excited. Bandura’s theories on the social learning theory now saturate the Web. It appears Bandura’s arguments have taken root and the world thinks he is on to something.
What does this have to do with my “presentation”?
Put simply, the stares and feedback I received from my peers (social impacts) and the brow-beating I received from one of my favorite professors (More Knowledgeable Other) acted as stimuli that caused me to hang my head in shame later. This meta-cognitive social and mental event made me realize that I had gotten my priorities confused for a minute. I learned quickly, through peer interactions, and from a meta-cognitive coach that I needed to get my act back on track. Immediately.
This epiphany resulted in a planned change in my behaviors in that class. I know now that my peers and professor will hold me accountable for slacking. And, who wants to be socially isolated in class? Trust me when I write that I will not let that happen again.
In reflection, I agree with Bandura (1999) that “interdependence of societies are creating new social realities in which global forces increasingly interact with national ones to shape the nature of cultural life.” (Bandura, 1999). In other words, the “peer society” to which I am now conjoined expects only the best I can do. From this point on, I know that I had better pay attention in class – or – face those frosty stares. (No. Thank you.)
No songs and dances allowed in UNT’s
Theory and Practice of Distributed Learning class!
(Okay. I got it.)
Now. THAT’s behavior modification for sure.
Bandura, A. (n.d.). Social Cognitive Theory. Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology: Volume 1, 349-374. doi:10.4135/9781446249215.n18
Definition of LEARNING. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning
McLeod, S. (2008, February 5). Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html