Do you learn better when you feel part of a community?
19th September, 2018 By An Coppens
As a continuous learner about all sorts of different topics, I often want to deep dive on my own, but then tap into a community once I have practical questions. This morning I read a book about learning (yes all 10 chapters in one sitting, thanks to the art of speedreading) and it made the claim that people learn better when they feel a sense of belong. Hence my question, do you learn better when you feel part of a community?
It made me wonder because I personally prefer learning in private and then occasionally enter into a community to engage and ask questions. I would love to hear your perspective.
I am a member of one community around business, which I joined for the training and stuck with for the community and ongoing support of the owner. When I attend a live course I do enjoy the interaction with others and I think we learn a lot from cross-fertilisation and side-conversations.
I recently attended a design thinking workshop on the topic of artificial intelligence, which brought out some great conversations around our table and it was a fun experience. We started as complete strangers and then ended up working together very well and as a follow-up, we connected on LinkedIn. I must say though that I didn’t experience a sense of belonging, but did feel part of a community or group trying to achieve a common objective, which was enough to serve the purpose we all came for.
When it comes to adult learners, a lot of sense making happens in discussions around learning. As a lecturer for an HR masters program, I would have explained a theory and then with the class we discussed where we had seen this in real life examples or how it could apply for the companies the students worked for.
My class was a tutorial group away from the central exam and education centre, but the local enterprise board wanted to support them in their endeavours. The group worked well together and supported each other, so there was value in working together. The discussion was also enriching for me as a lecturer because more viewpoints created definitely more interesting perspectives than just the theory.
One of the students in an official exam preparation in head office had tried to engage the lecturer there into a discussion about how the theory would apply in real life and was shut down for questioning the theory. He came back with the perspective that this lecturer didn’t have enough insight into the topic or was just a really poor communicator. The person wrote the course, so I guess he had enough knowledge, but he didn’t know how to engage with his adult learners in a way that actually facilitated their learning ability.
All of my group went on to graduate with their HR masters and I would have largely attributed the success rate to them being a group they felt they belonged to and supported by. I had the impression that they had each others’ back when it came to getting through some though concepts and rough patches.
If I then look at the world of gaming, a lot of people learning and playing a particular game will also look up tutorials and join communities around the game to hear about the latest developments. The instant feedback on streaming platforms such as Twitch, where you can also pay to watch a favourite player teach or show you their tactics is an example of todays community. We may not all have to be in the same physical location but can feel part of a place where you can learn from each other.
We do a bit of work with membership communities and often the people join the membership to learn and then stay because of the community. So what is your view, do you learn better when you feel part of a community?