Keynote address by Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner

1. Social learning in ‘troubling times’ – opening thoughts

  • Introduction to speakers (Dawn Johnson)
  • Community of Practice as a hill → mastery at the top
  • CoP → a local negotiation of competence
  • A place where learning is defined
  • CoP can be modified over time
  • Naturally occurring CoPs versus organised one (World Bank example)
  • Helping people ‘build a hill’

4. Knowledgeability – taking in the landscape

  • Relationship with, and orientation to, the landscape
  • Many relevant communities in which you can claim no competence
  • Claim to knowledgeability → a lot more ill-defined
  • Language matters
  • Social version of ‘critical thinking → way to orient yourself in the landscape

7. Competence as rooted in relationships and social landscape

  • Theory is a work-in-progress
  • What does it mean to be a monk if we are fundamentally social beings
  • Orientation to the landscape
  • Move away from learning as information and as situated in social context

10. Globalisation, metaphors, & crossing boundaries

  • Globalisation has not made boundaries disappear, and it shouldn’t
  • CoPs will not disappear; specialisations are increasing
  • Globalisation provides access across boundaries
  • Identity becomes fragile, fractured → new boundaries are re-created to feel safe
  • A shift in the burden of identity from community to the individual
  • Learning is still social, but the community does less work for you
  • Role of universities → allow people to navigate the landscape in a meaningful way

2. Connections between CoPs

  • Importance of looking beyond a single hill
  • How do we connect across disciplines?
  • Developing learning capability; talking across boundaries
  • Landscape of hills (rather than a single hill)

5. Reflection – finding yourself (including Q & A)

  • Where are the hills of competence in your own landscape? Where are you accountable?
  • Identity is at the core of this view of learning
  • You need to find a balance
  • Does knowledgeability need to be validated by other people?
  • Twitter example & Discussion groups
  • Managers might not see the different levels of the landscape → but need to be able to at least visit the hills
  • The hill of management is ‘just another hill’
  • Knowledge + skills = competence?

8. University and a body of knowledge → located in the landscape

  • Landscape of practices, rather than body of knowledge that can be ‘extracted’
  • University as ‘living in the landscape’
  • University of Brighton example → takes seriously the need to cross boundaries
  • Landscape view of learning → need to take the boundaries seriously

11. Student cohorts as CoPs, & a university’s learning theory

  • How do we access students’ knowledgeability?
  • Learning as ‘input-output’
  • Danger of technology → can be used to do the same old thing
  • Helping students to develop a digital footprint → a way of demonstrating their knowledgeability

3. Landscape view – What are the implications for the future of learning?

  • Exploratory theory
  • Example of ‘John’s landscape’
  • Landscape of practice → not necessarily free of conflict
  • Full of places competing for attention
  • Landscape is complexifying → multitude of accountabilities
  • Different pulls on John’s identity as a teacher
  • Access to information is no longer the issue
  • Main problem: where am I in the landscape?

6. Knowledgeability/ competence discussion continued

  • Link between competence and future thinking → not always positive
  • Do we create our own hills?
  • Competence has to function (social element) → danger in ‘self-defined’ competence in isolation

9. Reflection → crossing boundaries

  • Crossing boundaries is related to the notion of knowledgeability
  • Link to reflective learning
  • Not all boundaries of practice are clearly marked
  • Can ‘crossing boundaries’ be taught?
  • You can provide the tools to cross boundaries
  • Should be part of the high school experience
  • ‘Helicopter’ as a metaphor for boundary crossing → landscape view
  • What does a curriculum look like that provides a view from the top? (e.g. what if you’re never going to be a mathematician?)
  • ‘What can your students do?’ vs ‘Where have your students visited?’


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