Social learning – distributed through leadership groups


Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, in their blog develop the idea of leadership groups for social learning as a means to distribute learning. This provides a way for learning situations to scale up, whicle giving a reasonably common learning experience.

I’m currently thinking through the issue of a] providing an experience of participatory workshops to 3rd year communication designers, at the same time as b] doing this over a class of 150 students. This offers one way to imagine each person in the class having a responsibility to generate knowledge, while at the same time spreading the load.

IN the document Leadership Groups: distributed leadership in social learning the authors make the point:

The idea behind this practice is to identify distinct leadership tasks that are key to social learning in a given context – and to form groups to take on these tasks on behalf of the community. (viewed 7/10/2012)

They distinguish this type of leadership from the top-down, imposed leadership:

We see leadership as an act of service with leadership groups  acting as custodians of one part of a learning process on behalf of the community. When the term was a problem we have called them “Design groups” or “Community leadership groups” (5).

A leadership group is responsible for one of 7 defined tasks (see p4) or the tasks can be conflated into smaller no of groups. The tasks are further broken into a description of each, facilitation tips and sample instructions.

Each group is further responsible for bridging between meeting or workshops:

The work of the leadership groups should be seen to shape the form and substance of the community’s learning. The recommendations from one meeting should influence the design and flow of the next (9).

As I envisage the participatory workshop of 150 people, it can now be sliced into one set of project divisions, then diced into another set of leadership groups, as the Wenger’s describe. The overall objective is to ‘construct a brief’ (see next post).

For example, the class is sliced into 5 projects each with its own specific objectives. In each of these projects there could be approx 5 design [leadership] groups performing the functions described n the document. Though some would be modified to suit the overarching objective of constructing the brief.

That is, say 150divided into 5 = 30; 30 :- 5 = 6 in each task. Each task group would produce a set of findings that contribute to the overall ‘brief’ in each project. These findings would include design roughs, prototypes, graphics and so on as leading development material.


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