Build credibility with one another
A precondition for effective peer learning is that peers view each other as credible – valuable collaborators rather than competitors. Rather than simply take this for granted, it is possible to actively build credibility among peers to ensure it provides the foundation of trust needed for peer learning.
This can be done among peers you work with in your own discipline, or among groups of stakeholders or information providers you wish to work with in a shared learning context. Peers can be an invaluable resource even if they aren’t more advanced than you because they combine topic knowledge with practical experience in your domain, providing a different but very relevant perspective. Yet research shows we tend to confer greater credibility on those perceived as more knowledgeable or more experienced. Thus, by actively building credibility among peers we can counteract our natural tendency to only confer it to specialist experts, and make better use of the valuable contributions of peers.
How this principle was used in AdaptNRM
In AdaptNRM, we tried to provide many opportunities for NRM groups to view each other as credible sources of information, not just the authors of our modules. For example, during a review teleconference on the draft Weeds and Climate Change Technical Guide we had begun discussing what was required to incorporate climate adaptation into NRM weed planning. One of the NRM group representatives mentioned they were just about to embark on the task of developing a regional weed strategy and felt there was little practical guidance available to them. CSIRO weeds scientist John Scott had many years of experience working with NRM groups on developing weed management plans. Yet instead of giving his own advice, he responded that they would probably find it most useful to consult other NRM groups. John also suggested that it could be useful holding a workshop inviting a range of experts, including neighbouring NRM groups, to discuss the issues and assist with an initial regional weeds strategy. As the perceived expert, John was able to effectively transfer credibility to the NRM groups, strengthening their peer relationships.
Ideas for how you can apply this principle
One way to build the credibility of your peers is by identifying and highlighting personnel with particular areas of expertise or experience among those groups you tend to meet or work with, or even more broadly. Some questions that may be helpful for your group or organisation to ask include:
- Do you explicitly seek to develop a culture in your organisation that looks for and values the particular strengths and contributions of other groups, rather than criticising or competing?
- What strategies can you identify to build credibility among your stakeholders, so that peer learning between stakeholder groups can be enhanced?
Can you think of ways to build the credibility of different researchers and scientists with one another? Sometimes the culture of particular disciplines or organisations can run counter to researchers and scientists recognising the value of one another’s work, leading to poorly integrated, conflicting and confusing information. By showing that you recognise the value of all disciplines you could help to build the credibility of different researchers and scientists with one another. This may facilitate peer learning among them such that they work together to synthesise their information more effectively.