The Community of Practice

. In understanding how people and organisations really learn, it is the organisation's unrecorded wisdom that is more valuable than its captured knowledge. Furthermore, it is found that this unrecorded asset is developed and enhanced by social exchanges in a community atmosphere. People form so-called "communities of practice," and it is through these communities that real learning occurs. These communities involve a very complex, versatile web of informal networks. Through exchanging questions, meeting in hallways, telling stories, negotiating the meaning of events, inventing and sharing new ways of doing things, conspiring, debating and recalling the past, they complement each other's information and together construct a shared understanding of their environment and work. To perform any job requires the ability to learn and perform on shared memories, routines, improvisations, innovations and connections to the world. The community functions within and without - and sometimes in spite of - the company's official organisational and procedural frameworks.

. The health of these social learning communities is important as their well-being seems to be vital to the survival and renewal of organisations. It is better to lose data than lose people, as the people have the unwritten know-why. The reasoning is simple - the static memory of the organisation is eliminated, but the employees' shared mental repository of know-why and know-how remains intact. The community of practice endures. With their mental models, the people can recreate most of the policies, procedures, manuals, and so on. They can rebuild the organisation's static memory. On the other hand, if people are lost, the shared mental models are gone. The community of practice is destroyed and the linkages between the minds that form organisational memory are irretrievably severed.

"...Without these mental models, which include all the subtle interconnections that have been developed among the various members, an organisation will be incapacitated in both learning and action..."

Daniel Kim in Joseph Boycett et al, 1998

The organisation's mind dies and its body soon follows!!!!!!!

The basis for learning is unchanged

The basis of learning has not changed as human biology is the same, ie we are hardwired to enquire and learn; the building blocks of learning are being creative and curious.  It is a basic survival technique. Learning should be about developing creative citizens who are critical thinkers. On the other hand, the world has changed with the context of learning moving from one that essentially centred on vocational learning to one that is now dominated by the imperative of continual learning and lifetime capacity building. Today's students are going to make many significant career changes throughout their professional life.  But it is essential for success to know how to live with and make the most of rapid change, and to become change makers rather than change takers.  This has resulted in rethinking about how to deliver education.

Learning is about understanding your experiences.  A teacher's job is to

"...give students the lens and the toolkit that will enable them to pick up and interpret the world around. The lens is a critical filter that gives the ability to judge the worth of the oceans of information and opinion to which they have access today via technology.  The toolkit comprises core skills, such as research and creativity, numeracy and literacy, which are applicable to many subjects; and also discipline-specific skills, such as science skills or historiography. Both provide the capability to be actively engaged co-creating the future direction of our society and the world. In the past, teaching was the lens; the teacher provided, presented and interpreted the content.  Today, teachers are no longer content experts; rather, their role is to be diagnostician, a collaborator, a co-learner students to develop powerful lens and toolkit.  They do this by designing and supporting the richest possible set of experiences and perspectives with which the student can engage..."

Andrew Baylis, 2016

Linked with this is the student's need for a personalised journey rather than the rigid batch or class model where students are clustered by chronological age. The student's abilities, strengths and approaches to learning, rather than age, determine their individual program.  Also the boundaries between subjects/disciplines will blur and dissolve, as the overlap in skills and content accelerates.

"...Content was everywhere and what matters was learning ways of thinking..."
Shirley Alexander as quoted by Robert Bolton, 2017b

The traditional ways of learning via attending lecture theatres is fast being taken over by online presentations. The pandemic (2020) sped up this process.

Furthermore, the traditional teacher/student model will be replaced by collaboration and team teaching.

"...The ability work in teams - teachers and students are co-learners together - will become an absolute priority for learning.  Why?  Because innovation dies in isolation.  Students need to see that their teachers are learning with them, that they too are vulnerable in a world awash with information; that they too take risk in order to progress their understanding that working together opens new horizons......we are in the midst of a thinking revolution to meet the challenges of lifelong learning......looking at the different types of thinking that lead to deeper learning - in other words, better ways to use your brain to maximise potential..."

Andrew Baylis, 2016

(sources: Malcolm Gladwell, 2002; Joseph Boycett et al, 1998; Robert Winston, 2003)


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