I’ve managed to find a day or two over Easter to do more research and planning for my book. I’ve produced a questionnaire, and I’m really keen for this to spread far and wide so I can get a general sense for what people think is effective learning and so that I can source some really interesting case studies. Please take a look, fill it in and/or spread it around:
I’ve reconsidered the structure, so that it will highlight the key principles of effective learning rather than make artificial distinctions between different kinds of learning organisation. Below is a short summary outline. Each of the main chapters will include three main case studies, and I’m very keen to hear suggestions of what groups I should be telling stories about.
Prologue: Why read this book?
This draws in the reader by asking them to reflect on their experiences of learning, both formal and informal. I articulate my own passion for this research, how I came to the point of writing this, including why I think the acceleration, the scaling up and ecological orientation of learning are so essential. The reader is invited and guided to apply what they learn from this book to their own lives and organisations.
Chapter one: How have people come to learn as they do?
This is a very brief overview of what is known about social learning. It covers human evolution as hunters spreading across the planet then agrarians, basic knowledge about learning in the brain and neuroscience, and explaining what is meant by cultural evolution and social learning, using examples in history such as the challenges of forced migrations over centuries, or the role of innovative centres in the Modern Age such as Coffee Houses in the Enlightenment and the Pioneer Centre in Peckham.
Thereafter, the book will be organised in five substantial sections based on the five factors (Five Ps) that drive successful learning communities (four Ps), weaving in findings from interviews and research. Each chapter will contain around four sub-sections, including an introduction and three stories.
Chapter two: Plurality
Learning in ways and situations that are plural, or diverse
Plural models of learning assume a culture of acceptance of others, as opposed to ‘identity thinking’ (i.e. being identical). Learning in a diverse culture is likely to be seen as opening doors to infinite possibilities, deviating from normality, rather than instructing and moulding a person to be the same. A plural approach encourages learning through diverse experiences, from diverse resources and people. It aims to produce diverse ideas and outcomes, including generating biodiversity.
Chapter three: Peer to peer
Learning by sharing between peers
Peer-to-peer models are not mainstream in formal education but many educationalists recognise the motivational benefits of various ‘paragogic’ approaches. People learn more enthusiastically when their teacher is a little more able than they are, when the teacher demonstrates that they are still learning and when there is a relationship of equality. This kind of learning develops emotional and relational capacities. This goes hand in hand with an open commons, where knowledge is freely gifted in the hope of mutual returns.
Chapter four: Play
Learning through open-ended experiment, joyful exuberance and imagination.
Play is how children learn if they have their will, which means that it is also how adults learn too, if they have their will. However, in the conventional mind, play is the opposite of learning: Being ‘ready to learn’ means that children are physically able to sit still and to focus on symbolisation of word and number. Freedom to play means to allow learners to act without fixed outcomes, accepting failure. Ideal settings for play are full of diversity, whether cultural or natural stimuli, but they balance these stimuli with provision of free time and open space.
Chapter five: Praxis
Learning through practice in real and meaningful situations
Praxis is a familiar idea in learning theory, but as schools become more protective and results-driven, and work places become more abstracted from nature, we see less and less praxis in effect. Praxis is increasingly hypothetical or replaced with highly artificial games. Effective praxis has three dimensions: Creativity (opportunities to take risks, produce new ideas etc); Co-operation (working with others to solve real problems for mutual outcomes); Contextualisation (especially referencing local and global ecologies).
Chapter six: Planet
Learning in order to restore and sustain life
Most thinking about the purpose of learning doesn’t go nearly far enough, including most alternative socially-oriented thinking. In both conservative and socialist models, the purpose is individual achievement, whether to generate economic capital (usually for a nation state) or general wellbeing and flexibility for the individual. I believe the purpose of learning should be to generate biosphere capital, through the generation of cultural and economic capital.
Chapter seven: What next?
What can we learn from these stories of learning? What was surprising to me? What gives me most hope? What can educational organisations and policymakers take away from this? What can we do now to increase learning to transform our communities so that we can restore the biosphere?