First impressions….

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(Activity 3.1, 3.2 based on Introduction and Chapter 12 in Blackmore (2010))

So Part 3 of the course is about social learning – or to use the formal heading “Social learning, interaction and systemic change”.

From what I gather so far, this draws on some different traditions of research and practice around social learning.

The early traditions of social learning systems are exemplified by the work of Schon and of Vickers.  It is strange because I have touched on the work of both of these systems thinkers on a number of occasions in past study.  I particularly know Argyris and Schon’s work on learning and double loop learning.  I have also heard of Vickers work.  I am kind of looking forward to going back to these authors’ original work and understanding the roots of what I have seen quoted and re-invented in a number of different places.

The part also covers the work of the Hawkesbury group on critical social learning systems.  Although I have heard of the Hawkesbury work by name, I know very little about it.  I note that this was the early part of Ison’s career so I imagine some of the principles will be familiar.  Again, I am looking forward to knowing the detail of this.

Communities of Practice are also covered.  This concept is familiar to me and I touched on the work of Wenger when I studied Managing knowledge.  I seem to remember at the time I found his work hard to read.  Maybe it will be easier this time round.  Again I think I will enjoy getting into the background material on this.  My neighbour has loaned me the Wenger book – I have had it since christmas but have not opened it yet!

From what I can gather from Blackmore’s intro and final chapter, each of these traditions and authors take different perspectives on learning; social learning; social learning systems; learning systems etc and as a result different distinctions are made.  I guess this means I will not be able to get a definitive definition.  Though this one is quite helpful:

[the book] uses the construct of a learning system, mainly in the sense of a ‘system of interest’ with the purpose of learning that can be identified by an observer and linked to a range of systemic theoretical and practice traditions (page xiii)

Blackmore talks about a landscape of social learning systems praxis – I am a little confused as to what a landscape is but I note that it will be covered in Wenger’s work.  She offers a number of headings which you can use to compare and contrast the different traditions.

So far, this seems quite conceptually based – I am interested to see how I will be able to bridge it into my practice which was what I enjoyed with Part 2.

Overall, setting off into this part with an inquiring and interested mind.  Just hope the workload is a little lighter than it has been since christmas!


Blackmore, C. (Ed) (2010) Social learning systems and communities of practice, The Open University/Springer, Milton Keynes/London

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