To learn something and receive education is a privilege and not all the world have this luxury – to learn in an environment that caters to my specific needs is almost impossible to find, yet in Torbay a group of community tutors have moved some way to this ideal goal of all educators. Co-ordin8 was ‘created’.
Mum -‘ What do you think I do?‘
Daughter – ‘ you work with people with possibilities.‘
Possibilities and potential
‘We work with people who have possibilities – a community of people whose work reflects endless possibilities and huge creative potential. We all have potential. Potential is more dynamic than need. The urge to share interests, ideas, passions is both powerful and universal. Sharing does not require words or gestures only mutual trust. In a community of practice, (a group with shared interest/goals/idea), people get better at what they do by sharing ideas, experiences and passions. Once you have taken the risk of sharing it is hard to step back, to retreat. We should value risk taking.’ (David Roberts)
Shared learning journey
Once the journey has started the creative process takes over, this process varies in time, intent and attainment from individual to individual. However, recognising this as the starting point of the learning journey to be shared between student and tutor and is the beginning of the sharing of work, trust and learning.
The majority of adults we work with are over 30 and as such experienced the formal education of mainstream school type, some over 50 have also spent time living in larger institutions, most did not receive the sensory input required, experiential learning, and tailored educational to target their strengths and/or support their needs.
We have already demonstrated the benefit to health, wellbeing, social and life skills for even the most peripheral participants in our community of practice in the results seen in photographic evidence. This accords with the World Bank’s, the World Health Organisation’s and our own King’s Fund’s research findings that the social capital resulting from community participation is as important for the health, resilience, development and social cohesion of the community as it for individual.
Informal creative activities in a social context stimulate community engagement and accelerate social learning because the interaction, the sharing of interests, of passions and dialogue (which do not have to be verbal) can be accessible on so many levels and in so many disciplines. Creative communities of practice work because they are about shared interests or passions but stimulate individuality and are driven by the reciprocity that can fuel a meaningful and vibrant interaction with each other and other communities and institutions. In short by celebrating both our sameness and our difference they can be part of the glue that bind us together in a increasingly fractured world
Freedom to Learn
This approach was first defined by Carl Rogers in his book ‘Freedom to Learn‘;
‘One of the most effective means yet discovered for facilitating constructive learning, growth and change-in individuals or in the organizations they compose- is the intensive group experience.
The intensive group or “workshop” group usually consists of ten to fifteen persons and a facilitator or leader. It is relatively unstructured, providing a climate of maximum freedom for personal expression, exploration of feelings, and interpersonal communication. Emphasis is upon the interactions among the group members, in an atmosphere which encourages each to drop his defenses and facades and thus enables him to relate directly and openly to other members of the group- the “basic encounter”. Individuals come to know themselves and each other more fully than is possible in the usual social or working relationships; the climate of openness, risk-taking, and honesty generates trust, which enables the person to recognize and change self-defeating attitudes, test out and adopt more innovative and constructive behaviors, and subsequently to relate more adequately and effectively to others in his everyday life situation.’
Our own way of working can be defined in the following diagram.
Learn on the journey
So in conclusion we define the learning not by the product as in formal education, but by the process. This reflects the model used in fine arts of layering, where students will repeat a piece multiple times and learn a skill or a technique on the journey.
The level of skill to be attained is reflected in individual need for the skill in the world outside the classroom.
1. The Benefit
In creative writing student A, who has limited useful vision, does not benefit from the writing itself but the process;
- he can still spell words as he did when his sight was better; a boost to self esteem.
- he has very poor concentration and the focus on the subject matter, imagination and developing a story is improving his concentration and focuses his mind.
2. The Process;
This took place over the period of a term.
A = Student J
B = Student R.S.
C = Student R H
D= Student A
E, F, G = Student R H
How this achievement and process is represented to an outside observer to appreciate is our challenge as the final product is filled or framed and the process difficult and time consuming to put into words.
Creative process recorded
At present work is photographed and a slide show on for all to see, art exhibitions, project work, attendance records, returning students course on course and work appreciated by parents and carers. Other work is presented in the form of scrap books, the production of a meal or a typed up booklet of stories.
Individual student’s satisfaction is difficult to document as in some cases students cannot verbalise a response or understand the questions being asked of them. The feedback needs to be logged in creative ways and this may be in the form of smiles, happiness, settled behaviour, increase in confidence and skill.
Thanks to David Roberts for his contribution to the article.