Types of learning groups

Through facilitating a set of Learning Groups I have discovered that my hypothesis that Collective artifacts structure collaborative learning and engagement to be not entirely true and that Artifacts might not be the right framing for collective output. The reason for this is that the participants of the groups have divergent goals, which means that providing a goal of creating a single artifact is counter-intuitive. This leads me to consider how my Δ Model of engagement can be applied to understanding the different types of learning groups:

Divergent Goals

When the goals of a group diverge then the focus on engagement should be on the two factors out of my Three engagement factors, namely: space (the information and materials), and verbs (processes and interactions). The combination of these two factors create an approach to engagement that I call "curiosity," but may also be considered to be an Enabling environment. Perhaps I would call this kind of learning group a thinking group.

Convergent Goals

When the goals of the group align then it may very well be true that Collective artifacts structure collaborative learning and engagement. However under the model of engagement there are still two approaches (see: Three approaches to engagement):

  • Exploration: Under this model your goals in learning are very much aligned and the focus of collaborative learning should be around exploring the ʘ Information landscape.
    • For example: a language learning group would be aligned around the goal of learning the language, so the focus should be more on exploring aspects of the language together
    • Tools: map making, diagrams, anything that facilitates finding connections between different bits of information
  • Puzzle: Under this model you are likely working towards a specific project or goal together and the focus is less on what but more on how. You must collectively figure out the steps to solve or design solutions around certain problems to work your way towards a unified goal. This kind of group focuses more on the practical application of knowledge to create some kind of new output.
    • For example: a team at a hackathon figures out the steps and methods to use to collaborate well towards their goal
    • Tools: git-like branches and project management, structure, assigning roles, planning, strategy, and anything that facilitates teamwork or decision making

Of course, every learning group may switch between different modes or approaches to learning. However, I believe most groups could be thought of as having a central, defining approach depending on whether they have divergent or convergent goals, or are focused on creation versus exploration. There are seldom completely clear cut categories but categorizing learning groups in this way can be helpful to understand the different tools or learning structures that might be most helpful in different situations.