Learning Communities or Learning in Community

by Augusto Cuginotti

After doing some research on learning processes happening in communities, I was reflecting recently on the difference between what it is called learning community and what it is to learn in community.

The first group would be the people who live together as a society, the second would be of people who get together with the final aim of learning something, with a defined or yet to define purpose.

Reading the book shown at the end of this post, I reflected on how the author explores well the case of learning not being a good glue for a community — that people do not get together with the aim of learning in itself, but rather get together around a purpose that perhaps will require specific learning to a certain function, but it can also develop well and learning would only be on the background.

What crossed my mind was that a study group could be a learning community around a topic (in my case, for example, the topic could be learning itself :). This group of people relating to each other would only exist for a limited time, only while their interest around the topic would make sense for their members and they would keep putting energy to maintain their relationship.

Would this example be different in a community in a sense of people living together, where what ‘glues’ the group might be simply the fact that everyone lives together plus their shared values and beliefs? Learning in this group is possibly a result of people being in relationship with one another, and despite designed learning interventions happening or not, learning just happens naturally.

My conclusion is that one does not live in community to learn, but one only lives in community. And to live invariably means being within community relations where learning is inevitable.

The fact that not always the individual or the community looks at its own learning could define a third group — what if learning communities would be only about people who live and from time to time sit together to look at their own living and to what they have learned?

I wrote this article while living and working in a school that I believe is also a learning community. From time to time I sit and think what I’ve been learning while here.
This article is a translation of the original in Portuguese.