How is learning enhanced by a sense of community?
January 24, 2004 1:46 PM   Subscribe

How is learning enhanced by the establishment and maintenance of a sense of community?

I realize I this is a shameless attempt of homeworkfilter, but I've got brainlock-writer's block on this one. I do, however, think it ironic that I'm asking my favorite online community, from which I 've learned so much, about the value of community in learning......hey.....wait a sec.....
posted by elwoodwiles to Education (9 answers total)
I find that a clean, good learning environment helps me devote more attention to my work. Psychologically the sense of community greatly increases my want, for lack of a better word, to learn and compete.
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:13 PM on January 24, 2004

the cooperation and help available (and competition, as Keyser said)
posted by amberglow at 2:29 PM on January 24, 2004

In my experience, learning communities can be very effective when many people contribute their varied viewpoints and knowledge to a thread of inquiry, which is guided but not dominated by an instructor. The instructor contributes expertise, but the contributions of class members are integral to the classroom experience.

In this model, the teacher isn't the only one in the class with knowledge, and often the best "teachable moments" arise organically from classroom experiences.

I'm struggling with this too, in a different context. I am teaching two online Technical Writing classes this semester, and I'm trying to create learning communities that know the "rules" for appropriate online classroom conduct while avoiding making myself the hallroom monitor of appropriateness. I have new sympathy for Matt who must run this gauntlet on a much larger scale, and has done so for a long time now.
posted by answergrape at 3:07 PM on January 24, 2004

Learning is enhanced by a sense of community because:

1. People feel more comfortable asking each other questions, and when they do ask questions, they tend to ask more direct questions, rather than dancing around the issue with politeness, or being too shy to ask altogether.

2. People are, on the other hand, less apt to give in to the temptations of anonymity; this is the idea of "self-policing", that if you are in a community you have a certain investment in that community, and can be rewarded or shamed by your status. This helps learning because it keeps discussions somewhat more focused then they would be, at least in theory, and the infamous signal/noise ratio is heightened.

3. In a community, the knowledge base is accessed more efficiently because members know each other and know who to ask about specific topics. They also know where to go to ask questions, and what the acceptable method of asking those questions is.

4. Things like cooperation, encouragement, sympathy, et cetera that exist in communities but generally do not exist to the same degree in individuals or groups of strangers. Also communication seems to be faster, smoother, in communities than elsewhere.

Hope that helps. I'm not an expert in whatever field this falls under.
posted by Hildago at 3:18 PM on January 24, 2004

If you have a community of people involved in the learning process, then everyone becomes part of the learning process, it's not just the normal pedagogy of teacher vs student. In this case, you have people of different abilities, with different communicative and teaching styles who can help get points across. This, in turn, means that people who learn differently have a better chance of having someone in their community who can explain or demonstrate a certain idea in a way that assists them personally. Additionally, communities that are focussed on learning as an outcome, get more cooperative and less competitive, which means focussing on the goal of actually LEARNING instead of focussing on the tangetial goal of actually WINNING that competition can encourage..
posted by jessamyn at 5:04 PM on January 24, 2004

Similar to Hildago's point #2, having a community gives each individual something besides themselves to excel for. Competition and collaboration -- both elements that can contribute to success -- are artifacts of communities and relationships. Not to mention that people are, in the vast majority, herd animals. They want to belong to groups, and are more secure and competent when a group exists to "back them up" as it were.
posted by majick at 5:06 PM on January 24, 2004

To add to Hidalgo's #1, people are more likely to give honest feedback beyond the asker's original question, thus giving the asker information he or she didn't even know to ask.

Plus people within a community are more likely to go out of their way to help people they have at least a passing familiarity with do their homework. Random guy at Starbucks - Can you help me with my algebra? No. RG@Starbucks in Mefi T-shirt - Can you help me write my paper? Why yes, I'll see what I can come up with.
posted by pomegranate at 5:45 AM on January 25, 2004

Ask Metafilter itself is a pretty good example. Take a look at it and see how well it works!
posted by majick at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2004

The people in the sub-discipline "Composition and Rhetoric" talk endlessly about this. Do a google search for "compile bibliography" and you'll find a search engine for comprhet articles.

In the teaching of writing, it can make a difference. Also, a google search for "learning communities" +"works cited" should get you some online papers.
posted by mecran01 at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2004

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