Knowledge processes - Chapter 9: Learning Communities at Work

How have you learned?

  • Analyse the aspects of your learning. What have you learned informally, and what formally? What kinds of things are learned in each domain? In what ways are the boundaries between the formal and informal domains of learning changing in contemporary society? What does this mean for formal learning?



  • How have you learned the following?
    • Collaboration or teamwork skills
    • How to use new technologies
    • How to ‘read’ the media
    • Inclusive leadership
    • How to negotiate differences: culture, gender, life experience, interest, type of person
    • Nous, savvy, instincts that can be trusted
    • Authenticity, charisma, persuasiveness, ‘street’ credibility
  • Which of the above can be taught in formal educational settings? How can education connect with lifeworld experience?
  • What, from your personal experience, is good teaching? Following is one statement of principle. Review, rework and extend this statement of principle. Give examples from your own learning experience to illustrate your reworked statement of principle.

Teaching is a profession that requires both an understanding of the science of learning and deep empathy and regard for learners and their aspirations. This includes, for example:

  • depth and breadth of content knowledge
  • purposeful design of learning experiences
  • appropriate preparation/organisation of learning environment
  • clarity and understandability
  • enthusiasm for subject/teaching
  • capacity to engage and maintain motivation
  • sensitivity to/concern with students’ level of learning and progress
  • availability and helpfulness
  • quality of evaluation processes and exams
  • impartiality in evaluating students and sense of fairness.

Classroom management

  • Interview an experienced teacher on effective classroom management. What works? What doesn’t? You could develop an interview format based on specifics from the following checklist:


  • Climate – have classroom songs, pledges and inclusive routines; have children’s names, pictures and work visible
  • Feelings – encourage learners to feel at home, have a sense of belonging, feel welcome, feel safe and have a sense of purpose
  • Time out – avoid shame; deal with problems out of sight; ask the learner to record an explanation into a video or in writing; reflect together and jointly agree on the next action
  • Rewards – notice everything good; build up brownie points for certain goals and then reward
  • Seeking help – stay calm; conference problems and solutions; get to know families of students.


  • Rules – let students set rules and uphold them; share out responsibility; scaffold interpersonal problem solving
  • Expectations – negotiate goals and vigilantly track them
  • Time frames – plan the whole day, all activities and equipment needed
  • Engagement – be prepared; make sure learners are prepared for their tasks
  • Collaboration – plan, plan and plan some more – with your colleagues


  • Documentation – design and scaffold learning experiences
  • Tracking – monitor engagement and performance
  • Communication – explain clearly and often, to the learner and with their family
  • Flexibility – be prepared to change course
  • Engagement – harness sensibilities; enable multiple ways of making and expressing meaning
  • Knowledge – break things down; rebuild and apply; set challenging expectations
  • Consider the things a good teacher-communicator does. Shadow an experienced teacher for half a day. Find examples of different communication strategies. Create an effective list of attributes of the teacher-communicator.

Concepts of learning and education

• Name the features of formal and informal learning (education).

The teacher as a collaborative professional

The teacher needs to regard themselves as a professional engaged in ongoing observation, data collection and synthesis in order to co-design learning interventions and adjust them appropriately. Develop a mind map of the functions and roles of the teacher. Roles to include in your mind map may include:

  • collaborator, colleague
  • purposeful and creative designer
  • planer and documenter
  • observer and actor
  • self-evaluator and reflective practitioner
  • a participatory and accountable learner.

Some critical questions for schooling

  • Debate Friedman’s argument for vouchers. Do you agree that schools should be more like businesses? What are the advantages and disadvantages of heading in this direction?
  • Can formal education ever be as engaging as a video game? In what ways can and perhaps should schooling be more like a video game, or even use game technologies? In what ways will it be different, and perhaps should remain different?
  • List critical challenges you see on the horizon for the organization of schools as we have known them in the recent past. What are the pressure points? Where do you think things are likely to change?

Managing student learning

• Develop a curriculum planning strategy for an area of work. Following are some of the issues you may cover:


None of the following stages are solitary exercises – each will require you to communicate and negotiate with leaders, other teachers, learners and the community. The more team involvement and collaboration, the sounder the learning experience will be.

Stage 1: Be aware of context and challenge

  • Know your students – achievement records, artefacts, biographies, interviews, expert informants
  • Know the goals and aspirations of the community, school and curriculum
  • Develop confidence in your own depth of expertise

Stage 2: Determine starting point

  • Decide what you want to teach and why
  • Determine what learners already know
  • Select content
  • Plan knowledge processes
  • Develop support structures
  • Decide on modality of inputs
  • Identify supporting technologies
  • Plan how to negotiate diversity
  • Plan assessment and evaluation

Stage 3: Document learning designs

  • · Define content focus and knowledge goals
  • · Describe purpose
  • · Link to standards
  • · Create a timeline
  • · Design learning experiences and knowledge processes
  • · Select and order content
  • · Select pedagogical repertoire
  • · Describe expected learner engagement
  • · Specify knowledge outcomes
  • · Propose knowledge pathways

Stage 4: Implement plan

  • · Negotiate learning dynamics with learners
  • · Monitor engagement
  • · Modify content and process when appropriate
  • · Reflect on impact of learning designs
  • · Customise the learning experience to ensure inclusion
  • · Evaluate relationship of input choices with learner performance and outcomes
  • · Modify planning documents
  • · Develop a strategy for measuring student learning. What will you do specifically to find evidence of, and assess the quality of, student learning?

Technology in learning

  • Build a typology of digital learning tools that learners may use; for instance, a word processor, spreadsheets, lash animations, videos, wikis, web portfolios, simulations and blogs. Describe ways in which these could be used in ways that illustrate mimetic, synthetic or reflexive pedagogy.

A school for the future

  • Look at some codes of ethics for educators, and create one of your own.
  • Create a learning charter for your dream school.