The learning culture of our organizations (importantly education) emerge in situ, often unseen and without an architecture. With design for new ecologies of education and major initiatives to change education, how we see and shape these learning cultures matters. On my desk — again this year — is Wenger-Tayner, et al., (2014) Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, Identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. This work builds on the previous works of Wenger and Lave on situational learning — perspective and identity specifically.* If you’re asking a team to follow you in co-constructing new directions in your field** — new directions that will make significant meaning in the world, you will find this book useful.
Learning in Landscapes of Practice…. resonates because the concept of knowledgeability, or someone’s condition of being knowledgeable is so salient for the success of new directions in education yet so neglected in educational practice. In education, silos for competency are legion and attempts to integrate meaningful professional learning especially participatory professional learning across divisions and for the for organizational change are not common.
Thinking of education in terms of “landscapes of learning” allows for sustained and inclusive innovation. We need to engage every stakeholder in new forms of learning as successful new ventures create meaning and become realistic alternatives to traditional education. And needless to say, there will need to be spaces of permission for radically new types of professional learning, for instance, to understand and critique a whole educational system — a system that exists quite often to perpetuate itself as opposed to the needs of learners and communities.
We need to engage each teacher in co-constructing the change we undertake. Key is supporting teachers in seeing learning and design as part of their critical work — work that will yield results they deeply care about and believe in from theory to praxis. The common refrain in K-12 education that, “we do not have enough time for theory and design, we just need to….”, or, “we will leave that to the experts….we have teachers or kids in front of us….” is irrelevant in a world of unprecedented complexity. These views are at opposition with the reality that education is a social construct, that must be theorized, constructed/reconstructed through design and praxis, and sustained by individuals in the community on a consistent basis.
No educator, parent or policymaker should leave the spaces of education, specifically praxis, unexamined. So where theory can open you to thought, ultimately praxis allows for the experience, knowledge building and networking towards both the boundaries and possibilities of the new direction you are taking. These are critical conversations to have in education and society and we need to take a much closer look at how we are shaping ongoing professional learning and ultimately design in our ventures. Learning in Landscapes of Practice is a book that will peak questions toward these aims — important for all of us working to create resilient pathways for our new directions in our field.
*Wenger (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity and the foundational work of Lave and Wenger on situational learning (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Though these are dense works at times, they are well worth your time. In this space, I would also recommend Lave’s (2011) Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice.
**Though my experience is primarily in education, these points are, I hope, important for innovation in any sector.