Develop a social learning community: Personalized learning plans

Ask the leading students from each academic college to draft a personalized learning plan and to share learning strategies that other students could utilize.

Learning theory

Reflecting on how I learn and methods I have used to teach others, I would say that we learn better by working with a peer or expert and in the context of our work or area of academic study. Wenger suggests that humans are social beings who gain knowledge through participation, interaction and pursuit of active engagement with the external world — such interaction results in personal meaning (Wenger, 1999). If we were to utilize Wenger’s social theory of learning and consider the aspects of community (learning as belonging), identity (learning as becoming), meaning (learning as experience), and practice (learning as doing) we could adapt an effective strategy for nurturing and supporting a social learning community at WMU.

Knowledge creation and sharing

One aspect that appears to be essential to creation, growth, and support of a social learning community is the practice of creating new knowledge and sharing resources. According to Kock if we desire to “foster knowledge creation and sharing, learning organizations should establish a culture that is conducive to those activities that promote knowledge creation and sharing” (Kock, 2005). So what kinds of actions can be taken to establish such a culture? Kock cites research done by Senge, Nevis et al., and Roskelly: taking some risk and experimenting, adoption of new management practices that stimulate creativity, and actions that stimulate social interaction will help to promote knowledge creation and sharing.

Asking students to share what works for them

By asking the top students from each academic college to share their academic strategies and habits we are taking an important first step towards developing an institutional wide social learning community. Rather then telling students what will work for them, we are asking those who are successful to share what they have discovered worked best for them in their areas of academic study. New insights and perspectives into what moderns students do 1) to get things done, and 2) to access and retain new knowledge can be advantageous to both our faculty (e.g. adopting or building awareness of alternative methods for helping students to learn) and the student peers who are pursing a similar area of academic study (e.g. peers can learn effective methods and strategies to improve knowledge retention and application).

How to share the knowledge…

The audience interested in the information we are talking about in this post include students, instructors, parents, and high school students. Many of the effective habits and plans shared by our “leading students” may be applicable beyond the scope of their academic area of study. Hence, having a Web site, blog, wiki or online forum where the information is shared and developed that is accessible to everyone (i.e. members of WMU, high schools, and the surrounding region) would be ideal. To make this work we should pursue a collaborative relationship between all of our colleges, programs, and offices and deliver a unified message through one Web site, an e-mail campaign, and strong marketing.

References

Kock, N. F. (2005). Business Process Improvement Through E-collaboration: Knowledge Sharing. Idea Group Inc (IGI).Wenger, E. (1999). A social theory of learning. In Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press (pp. 3-5). Retrieved September 27, 2007, from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr;=&id;=heBZpgYUKdAC
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