In the Nexus: Learning Pods as Learning Micro-Societies

In the Nexus: Learning Pods as Learning Micro-Societies

Matthew Eichler, Carrie J. Boden-McGill
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch039
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The higher education landscape is facing a time of unprecedented challenges, and public higher education is under pressure to provide value relative to rising costs. In this chapter, the authors discuss one strategy to respond to these trends and to meet the needs of students through the implementation of learning pods, which are small geographically oriented teams working on individual learning projects as self-directed communities of scholars. The theoretical underpinnings for learning pods come from best-practices in the communities of practice, novice to expert, self-directed learning, relational cultural theory, and mentoring literature. The learning pods approach is versatile and could be adapted for many K-20 and professional practice settings and is a good example of how the combinations of technology and in-person meetings serve the needs of 21st Century learners. Learning pods provide an environment for students to develop skills such as reflection, teamwork, and networking that are vital to success in the modern workplace.
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Since Malcolm Knowles popularized the notion of andragogy in the United States in late 1960s (Knowles, 1968), there has been an ongoing debate among scholars, theorists, and practitioners in K-12, higher, and adult education regarding the superiority of andragogy or pedagogy. Largely, the conversations have been shaped by the overly simplistic notion that the learning characteristics of children neatly fit into one category (pedagogy), while those of adults are uniformly in another category (andragogy). In recent years, an increasingly large group of voices have noted that this dichotomy, indeed, may be false and that learners may simultaneously exhibit preferences and characteristics that are both andragogical and pedagogical in nature (Delahaye, Limerick, & Hearn, 1994; Reynolds, Laton, Davis, & Stringer, 2009; Taylor, Reynolds, Laton, & Davis, 2012).

Reynolds, Laton, Davis, and Stringer (2009) hypothesize that rather than a dichotomy (pedagogy vs. andragogy) there exists a continuum (pedagogy-mesagogy-andragogy), and that there may be elements of both pedagogy and andragogy, even in large volume, present in a learner simultaneously. The space on the continuum where both pedagogy and andragogy simultaneously exist is referred to as mesagogy. Taylor, Reynolds, Laton, and Davis (2012) discuss the development and testing of the Learning Environment Preference Inventory (LEPI), an instrument that measures “Knowles’ ideas of pedagogical and andragogical learning, structure preferences, and all the space between those two polar, hypothetical constructs” (p. 63). Findings from two separate studies of community college students utilizing the LEPI suggest that learners in the mesagogy category represented between 25% and 44% of adult learners in the sample. While these are initial findings, it is important to consider that learners who require moderate amounts of support and scaffolding could constitute a significant percentage of college students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Pods: Small geographically oriented teams working on individual learning projects as self-directed communities of scholars.

Novice to Expert: A continuum that includes five levels of adult skill acquisition: “novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert” ( Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986 , p. 21).

Metagogy: In this model, educators draw from both andragogy and pedagogy to “adopt an attitude toward good practices” ( Strohschen, 2009 , p. xi).

Andragogy: The art and science of helping adult learn.

Self-Directed Learning: A process through which individuals diagnose their learning needs, formulate plans and goals, identify resources, implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes.

Communities of Practice: A learning community situated in a social context that forms around common interests and is mediated by experience and practice.

Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching children.

Relational Cultural Theory: A theory that posits personal and professional growth is enhanced by relationships that include authenticity, mutual empathy, and mutual empowerment.

Heutagogy: An approach that ventures beyond the realm of andragogy to not only advocate for learner self-direction, but also requiring that learners focus on how to learn while engaged in learning about a subject.

Mentoring: A professional relationship in which the mentor uses his/her experience to assist the mentee in developing skills or gaining knowledge that will lead to professional and personal growth.

Mesagogy: The space on the teaching and learning continuum where both pedagogy and andragogy simultaneously exist.

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