Week 24 – A3: Learning Architectures

reading: Wenger (1998) – Learning Architectures

1. Wenger’s four dimensions of design for learning;

  • Participation and reification

Design for practice is always distributed between participation and reification – and its realization depends on how these two sides fit together.

  • Designed and emergent

The relation of design to practice is therefore always indirect. It takes place through the ongoing definition of an enterprise by the com-munity pursuing it. In other words, practice cannot be the result of design, but instead constitutes a response to design.

There is an inherent uncertainty between design and its realization in practice, since practice is not the result of design but rather a response to it.

  • Local and global

Communities of practice are already involved in the design of their own learning because ulti­mately they will decide what they need to learn, what it takes to be a full participant, and how newcomers should be introduced into the com­munity (no matter what other training these newcomers receive else­where). Whenever a process, course, or system is being designed, it is thus essential to involve the affected communities of practice.

Complex relationship between local and global;

No community can fully design the learning of another.

No community can fully design its own learning.

  • Identification and negotiability

Design creates fields of identification and negotiability that orient the practices and identities of those involved to various forms of participation and non-participation.

As a consequence, design can invite allegiance or be satisfied with mere compliance; it can thrive on participation or impose itself through non-participation. It can seek enough identification to focus energy on its realization; or it may prefer to be less dependent on widely shared in-spiration. It may seek a realization by restricting negotiability and re-fusing to share the ownership of its meaning; or, on the contrary, it may endeavor to share this ownership and endow all involved with enough negotiability to decide how to participate in the process meaningfully.

These dimensions are fundamental because they reflect the in­evitable confrontation of design with issues of meaning, time, space and power, and also because they cannot be reduced to one another. (pg 236)

The challenge of design, then, is to support the work of engagement, imagination, and alignment.

Facilities of engagement; mutuality, competence and continuity

Facilities of imagination; orientation, reflection and exploration

Facilities of alignment; convergence, coordination and jurisdiction

The challenge, then, is to enable a combination of all three without letting the need for one be fulfilled at the expense of the other two.

2. Wenger vs Goodyear…’Wenger strongly emphasises the importance of indentity and ways of belonging for education rather than thinking of education in terms of skills and information.’


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