A “Health Warning” About Groups

It can be great to belong to a group, especially if you are a highly respected core member. Other people can look up to you and ask you to share your expertise. The process of moving from being a peripheral member to being a core member can also be very satisfying. However, groups are sometimes defined as much by whom they exclude. Groups may not just have insiders; they have outsiders who are not seen as part of the group. Often, this may not matter. No one can be a member of every group. However, being a member of some groups means that there is access to privileges that are denied to outsiders, who may be viewed as inferior or undesirable.

Figure 3.11 bell hooks
Figure 3.11 bell hooks

American author bell hooks (she prefers her name to be given without capital letters) describes the effect of coming from a class and having an ethnicity that can lead to exclusion:

It was assumed that any student coming from a poor or working class background would willingly surrender all values and habits of being associated with this background. Those of us from diverse ethnic/racial backgrounds learned that no aspect of our … culture could be voiced …

I see many students from “undesirable” class backgrounds become unable to complete their studies because [of] the contradictions between the behaviour necessary to “make it” … and those that allowed them to be comfortable at home with their families and friends …

(hooks, 1994, p. 182)

Activity 3.16: Considering Possible Problems with Group Mobility

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity.

This is a required activity for Challenge 8: The Reflection Challenge.

As bell hooks suggests, sometimes moving from one group to another can be problematic. For example, some people find that when they go to college their old school friends do not react well to their joining new groups of people and the old friendship bonds can become weakened. It is also common to find that people have preconceptions about you, based on your identity (for example, your class, race, religion, gender, profession, town of origin, etc.), and for these preconceptions to make it difficult for you to fit in with a new group of people.

However, it is possible to better cope with these possible hurdles by preparing for them well in advance. This group mobility activity [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   will help you to do so. It involves both reflecting backwards and reflecting forwards.


Hopefully this activity will have prompted you to further consider the possible impact of belonging to any type of group, and of moving from one group to another. You may have had few problems in doing so yourself. Indeed, some people are very happy to leave their old groups behind, for example when they leave home to find work or to go to college. Also, some people are better than others at fitting in with new groups. Whatever your experiences it would be worth going through the steps in this activity any time you anticipate joining a new group, or moving from one group to another, in order to better prepare for that move.

So far in this unit, you have looked at learning theories from psychology and at communities of practice. The next section introduces a third set of ideas—Entwistle’s theory of student approaches to learning. Exploring Learning Communities

3.2.8 Entwistle’s Theory of Student Approaches to Learning