Engagement over time is valuable in learning, giving us time to reflect, to try things out back in the real world, to draw together our learning. Providing appropriate, flexible and easily accessible social learning spaces around formal learning experiences is one of the easiest and most effective ways of expanding our professional practice.
The point of these spaces is to facilitate discussion and enable learners to play with the learning. Through appropriate challenge and moderation, it’s a way of making the learning more relevant, of making it more immediate.
At a practical level, i find that it’s valuable to choreograph the spaces for social learning much as we would any other parts of the experience. Not choreograph the content of the discussions, after all, this is a semi formal social space and we want spontaneity, but rather to create the spaces and times for the discussion to take place.
In a six week programme around coaching, i have looked at building in three distinct spaces for social learning: one at initiation, aimed at building common definitions and reflecting on current practice, one in the middle to explore new dimensions of the topic and challenge understanding and one at the end to share implementation ideas and bring issues back to the group. Three identical spaces, but each dealing with a new part of the narrative. The moderation needs to shift accordingly, from pulling people in at the start to keeping discussion on track in the middle and then building out a narrative at the end (more on stages of moderation here)
This is a more nuanced approach than simply creating one space and leaving it to run: we are building a syllabus and a structure, a scaffolding for the conversation. Scaffolding the learning in this way is a valuable way of intervening without smothering the social aspects of the learning.