Learning Community: Hypothetical Learning Scenarios
This method works in groups of volunteers or volunteers teaching a group of people.
Every time you meet start out by making rounds where everyone makes a short introduction: It can be briefly describing the day they’ve had or it can be more creative (“what would you bring to a desert island”, or something else that creates a light mood) – if it is in the very beginning of the project/semester they can tell why they joined and who they are. This makes the group closer connected, they get to know each other, and you start every session/meeting by making sure that everyone is mentally present.
Continuously doing the check-in helps create an atmosphere of trust and feeling of community in the group.
By creating a feeling of community and trust you will create a group that can effectively learn together.
In the volunteer groups at Studenterhus Aarhus we do check-ins to initiate every meeting, sometimes people briefly describe the day they’ve had or we have themed meetings (zombies, Harry Potter, Hollywood) and people will check in based on that (“what would you do in the event of a zombie invasion”, “which Hogwarts House would you be in”, “who would play you in a movie”) just to shake things up and give energy to the meetings. This can also be done at the beginning of a class.
As a volunteer, a teacher, a human being, you don’t know all the answers or solutions. Try to connect with other people, search for the answers together and learn from each other. No one is omniscient. Try to listen to other people’s ideas and ask questions.
When you consider and explore solutions together, you will get things done faster and better.
People who work and create together, share a common vision. They expand their knowledge and can share it with other people.
Once a month people can come to DINAMO with broken things and try to mend them along with the volunteers. They’ll have to work together, because they all know something, but nobody has the whole solution. By interacting with each other, asking questions and helping each other, they’re able to fix a lot of things each month. Their self-esteem grows and everyone learn something from it.
This method is aimed at making newcomers feel safe in a new environment, but also includes volunteers and other stakeholders who have been part of the relevant community for a longer time.
“Captain my captain” is the simple principle of always having someone the volunteers can go to if they need help, have doubts or questions. It can be an assigned volunteer for different areas, a staff member or both – as long as this person will always have answers for the asker – and if not, finds them, so the person in doubt isn’t thrown from person to person in the quest for answers potentially ending up feeling abandoned and with no answers.
Always knowing who to go to creates feeling of safety and lessens frustrations among newcomers in a community.
With a group of volunteers and other stakeholders that know that they always can get help and answers you build a strong, well-working community of practice with a high level of knowledge sharing.
In Studenterhus Aarhus we have several volunteer groups that all function as their own community of practice. All the groups are assigned a group leader, who knows the workings of the house and has experience within the relevant field. Every new and old volunteer know that they can come to the group leader with concerns or questions, and if the group leader can’t answer, he/she will know who to ask instead.
This classic is a useful tool for groups in meetings or during brainstorm and project sessions. The method is simple: Assign talking authority to an object – a stick, a ball, a teddy bear – and whoever holds the object has the right to speak, while everyone else must listen.
The talking stick can help create disciplined discussions and order during a meeting or other.
Introducing the talking stick can discipline a group, so they show respect for each other by listening while others talk, which in turn creates a favorable group dynamic.
After a while the group will be used to the kind of meeting discipline the talking stick evokes, and the group will automatically maintain good meeting practice.
In one of our volunteer groups we had a challenge with people talking during our meetings, so the group leader introduced the talking stick to make it easy to verbalize who could talk and who needed to listen. After a while the stick wasn’t necessary anymore as the group had gotten used to waiting their turn to speak.