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3.3 Your learning communities

When you are learning new skills with others – including studying formal courses – you could be said to be part of a learning community. In this video clip one student, Karen, describes the nature of her learning community.

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Does anything surprise you about the people Karen included in her learning community? She included all those who supported her, enabling her to study and be confident that she could do it, as well as her tutor and fellow students. They were all essential elements for her to succeed with her learning.

The next activity is a good opportunity to reflect on how the people in your own life influence your learning and studying.

By the way, in doing this, you are also evaluating the relevance and usefulness of communities of practice as a theory; that is, judging how accurate and useful it is. The key features of a community of practice provide a framework that you can use to analyse aspects of your own life.

Activity 3 Are there communities of practice in your life?

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes for this activity.
  • Firstly, remind yourself of the key features of a community of practice. Then create a table such as that shown in Figure 4.
  • In the first column, list up to six ‘groups’ to which you belong. (Your family or workplace might be one of these, as well as more obvious groups or societies.)
  • In the second column, comment on how the people in these groups support your learning. (It can be everyday learning, academic learning, workplace learning …any type of learning.)
  • Finally, in the third column, make some notes about whether the groups seem to have any of the three features of a community of practice.
Described image
Figure 4 Communities of practice, or not?

Discussion

Well done for having a go at applying a theoretical framework to your own life! How did you get on? Did you find many communities of practice? Don’t worry if you are not sure – it isn’t always clear cut. The main thing here is that you start thinking this way.

This activity might also have reminded you of the difference between learning alone and social learning that you looked at earlier in the course. It highlights the importance of other people around us when we learn, and the different roles they play in our lives.