Learning Occurs in Community
The first is the pioneering work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. Working among the poorest of the poor in Brazil, Freire developed the practice and theory of Critical Education. He demonstrated that people who had never learned to read could quickly develop skills of literacy and complex reasoning if those skills would help them improve conditions within their communities. If they learned to think critically about the forces creating their poverty, they quickly learned the skills and analytic tools that could help relieve their condition.
Freire’s work has since been substantiated by many others, in a wide variety of cultures and populations. The essential lesson is this: When people understand the forces creating the adverse conditions of their life and how they might change those forces, they become eager and rapid learners. They are capable of learning sophisticated skills that far surpass traditional assumptions about their intellectual capacity. And they learn these skills faster than anyone would have thought possible.
The second body of practice and research is that of communities of practice. This work has been pioneered in modern corporations, where training needs and efforts at knowledge management consume billions of dollars. Some core questions have been, How can people most quickly learn new skills? How is knowledge developed and shared within an organization? The concept community of practice was developed to illuminate that learning is a social experience. We humans learn best when in relationship with others who share a common practice. We self-organize as communities with those who have skills and knowledge that are important to us.
….People learn very quickly when they have a need for the skills and information. If it will change their lives, if it will help them accomplish what is important to them, then everyone can become a good learner….And people learn best in community, when they are engaged with one another, when everyone is both student and teacher, expert and apprentice, in a rich exchange of experiences and learnings.
Question: What are you teaching the people that is so compelling that they need to learn to change their lives and to change the world to be a better place for all? How are you helping them learn in community?