Discussion 2: Summarize an Additional Chapter – Chapter 11
Learning Communities: Theoretical Foundations for Making Connections by Janette R. Hill
“Interest in creating a community to help facilitate and support learning has been a long-term interest for many educators seeking ways to enhance the learning experience for their students.” (Jonassen & Land, 2012 p.268)
I was drawn to Chapter 11 because I am a math teacher and I have created a business that exclusively supports high school students taking online courses. One of the biggest obstacles to online learning can be a lack of community. I believe that part of the reason my business is so successful is due to the interaction and support they receive by being part of a small group.
Chapter 11 begins by defining both community and learning community. I agree with the summary that “underlying both definitions is a sense of a group of people working together to facilitate the learning process” (p.269). I appreciate how the chapter specifically addresses that a community can be, and often is, in “virtual space” (p. 268).
Anyone can form a community, but for the purpose of education some type of facilitator or educator will enhance the learning community and experience. The learning communities can be formal or informal. This assignment, to participate in an online discussion, is an example of formal learning community. When I have contacted one or more fellow students, outside of the discussion area, to explore a topic more in depth … this is an example of the creation of an informal community.
Learning communities are built from theories. In my most recent paper, I focused on constructivism. Chapter 11 reinforced why I was drawn to this theory “… social presence building out of theories, specifically relate[s] to distance education. Most if not all of the theories build out of a social constructivist perspective on how learning occurs” (p. 272). Chapter 11 addresses zone of proximal development (ZPD) and scaffolding as critical aspects of any learning community.
Social presence is a critical aspect of any community, especially an online community. (p.273) “Connections between members are the building blocks for the formation and growth of a learning community (p. 273). This presence is directly affected by social context, online communication, and interactivity (p.273). For education, the teacher whether online or in person plays a critical role in facilitating or creating opportunities for interaction.
Social interdependence and situated learning are explored in this chapter. The interdependence can be positive or negative. In situated learning situations, collaboration is extremely important. The educator needs to “find ways to support and enable interactions” (p. 275).
Additional theories of how to support students are self-regulated and self-directed learning theories. Motivation and maturity are critical aspects of both of these theories. For my students I create a “blended online learning community” (p.276). My student’s motivations and maturity levels vary dramatically. Some of my students are here because they hate math at school and don’t really want to do it at all. Other students are here to excel or get ahead. By creating an additional community for them I give them a higher chance, regardless of motivation, of success.
There are many difficulties to overcome when creating a learning community. Interaction is seen as one of, if not the most important aspects of a community. What do you do when a student or learner does not want to participate? “Facilitating interactions is [the] key within a learning community” (p. 277). The teacher or educator needs to build a “sense of presence” for all members of the community. This presence needs to be both social and learning.
Chapter 11 also provides some strategies for creating learning communities. Educators need to create environments where students feel “safe” to learn, interact, and share (p. 278). This can happen when they find some commonality and clearly understand their role and purpose within the group or community. Time is addressed … we all have issues with managing this. This is one of the biggest roles I play with my own students. My students have “open” calendars, as long as it all gets done by the last day it doesn’t matter when and where they do it. I keep my students on a calendar that will keep them progressing at a manageable pace.
The final strategy provided is technology. In many ways, technology, especially social media, has made the creation of a “community” easier. However, I agree with the assertion that “… the biggest challenge with the technology is how best to use it to facilitate a learning community vs. simply a community of learners” (p. 280).
I am so happy that I chose this chapter to analyze. It illustrates many of the day to day issues I deal with. I believe that understanding the theories behind both learning communities and constructivism will enhance my student’s and my own experience.
Jonassen, D. H., & Land, S. (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Lawrence Erlbaum. Routledge (1999) (268-286)