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Getting the circle rolling
ICLS Pre-conference Workshop on June 23, 2014

CFP - Background - Program - Instructions

In recent decades, a socio-constructivist approach to learning has increasingly become relevant to education, reflected in the emergence of the learning sciences as a discipline (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). This shift in the recognition that learning does not take place only in one’s mind, but is distributed (Salomon, 1993), has been translated into educational models that are profoundly different than traditional ways that teaching and learning have been practiced (Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999). Among these reconceptualized models, those that have focused on the community have received a great deal of attention, particularly when they were first studied in 1990’s (e.g., Brown & Campione, 1994; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994). We refer to these models as learning communities (LCs).

The attention that LCs received from learning scientists, as well as their promulgation within various educational settings like schools (e.g., Herrenkohl & Mertl, 2010; Hogan & Corey, 2001; Lehrer, Schauble, & Lucas, 2008; Rogoff, Turkanis, & Bartlett, 2001), universities (Hod & Ben-Zvi, 2013), informal settings (e.g., and more recently in online settings (e.g., Kafai & Fields, 2013; Resnick, et al., 2009), is reflected in academic journals and conferences. For example, a 2009 EARLI conference had the theme of “Fostering a Community of Learners,” out of recognition that “learning is a social process of knowledge construction by collaborating with peers and teachers in communities of learners” (Rijlaarsdam, 2009, p. 5). Even this year’s ICLS theme, Learning and Becoming in Practice, is at the heart of the LC approach due to its emphasis on enculturation (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).

           While there are many reasons to view the progress that has been made in research and practice on LCs positively, there are still voices of concern. Firstly, to this day only a relatively small number of LCs have been researched and replicated in practical settings. While there may be multifarious aspects above and beyond the learning sciences that inhibit this, one cannot rule out the lack of understanding or under-theorization as a potential factor. Second, although there has been a steady roll-out of articles and research published on LCs, they have hardly been the central theme of articles and conferences. A close look at the same EARLI conference shows there were no efforts to define, revisit or review what is known about LCs. Moreover, for example, in the past two learning sciences international conferences (CSCL 2013, ICLS 2012), the term LC, or one of its relevant equivalents, was a central theme or even loosely addressed in only a relatively small number of papers.


Workshop Goals

Based on the enduring interest of the learning sciences community to explore the LC approach, we make a call with this proposal as a step towards re-invigorating LCs as a central theme of research. Moreover, we are interested in contemporary ways that LCs have been extended. We believe there is great work being done, and the goal of this workshop is to communicate these ideas around the organizing concept of LC theory and practice. As such, our pre-conference workshop will focus on the following questions:

  • What is the current status of LC theory and practice?

  • What exemplary learning community models exist today that still have yet to be shared but can make a contribution?

  • What are current research agendas working on this and what are the key results?  

  • What interdisciplinary perspectives can contribute to what is known about LCs? How we create a new LC language based on the existing disciplinary languages?

  • How is technology used to foster n LC? What are future technological directions?

Expected Outcomes and Contributions

The workshop is to organized around these four guiding questions that the participants will actively negotiate during the day’s activities.

  • Who are we? The purpose of this question is to build the social infrastructure of our learning community.

  • What are we interested in? The purpose of this question is to encourage people to share ideas and elicit the major themes.

  • What do we know and don't know? The purpose of this question is for the community to identify the issues that need to be developed and studied further.

  • Where do we go from here? The purpose of this question is to reflect upon the day and make commitments (or explore possibilities) for future collaborations

We envision this workshop as the start of an ongoing, International Research Collaboration on Learning Communities (IRCLC) composed of researchers and visionaries who are interested in studying LCs. As an outcome of this research, we suggest publication of a book or special issue in a refereed journal that reports and synthesizes our emergent findings. We will use a collaborative internet platform to pool resources from different disciplines, connect research and practice in various domains, examine current and future challenges, and contribute to a solid research foundation that can significantly advance the field.