Community-based learning is learning that's done in and from a community. If you ever took a field trip in school or took part in group work, chances are you experienced community-based learning. You went and engaged with people and learned from it.
Community-based learning is growing in popularity, both because it’s pedagogically solid and because the internet has opened new ways of doing it. In the past, students were limited to physical experiences. Now, they can take part in community-based learning from around the world if they choose.
In this article, we’re going to introduce community-based learning, talk about some of the benefits and challenges, and give you some ideas for making it work.
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In this article…
What is community-based learning?
Community-based learning is a practice of bringing people together to create educational opportunities. While there are many different ways to learn, the approach of community-based learning recognizes that there is knowledge and wisdom in community, especially because of the diversity of members’ perspectives, practices, and experiences.
Community-based learning is an awesome pedagogical approach. Rather than treating learning as if it’s about an individual receiving information, learning is done through interaction and relationships.
Benefits of community-based learning
- It works for different types of learners: Not everyone is well suited to sitting in a classroom staring at a chalkboard. Community-based learning can engage different senses and work for different types of learners.
- Builds relationships: Unlike traditional learning, which is usually individual and solitary, community-based learning can focus on relationships and interactions.
- Accesses different types of knowledge: Traditional pedagogy focuses on textbooks and information. Community-based learning opens up different types of knowledge, especially knowledge that hasn’t typically been valued by the educational system.
- Access to different types of teachers: For many traditional teachers, knowledge is not practical. Community learning means you can get teaching from practitioners.
- It fits our socialization: We’re socialized to form relationships with others, but then traditional learning asks us to sit quietly, facing forward. Learning in relationship with others can help fix this.
- Unlimited potential: Thanks to tech, you can virtually access communities around the world.
Challenges of community-based learning
- Meeting learning objectives: It’s important to either have softer learning objectives and/or let the learning go where it needs to.
- Finding the right community: Although there’s more access than ever, it can still take time to fit into a community that’s the right fit for learning.
- It takes extra work to build relationships and identify learning opportunities: Traditional teachers accessing community-based learning will need to work a bit harder.
- Learning happens outside of your comfort zone: Often the best learning will happen outside of your comfort zone, which can be a challenge at first.
6 Ideas for unlocking community-based learning
1. Find practitioners
As we said above, one of the great things about community-based learning is that you can learn from practitioners. That's a fancy way of saying, the people who actually do the stuff.
A simple way to unlock community-based learning opportunities is to look for people who have done things you want to learn about.
Here's a cool example. One of our Mighty Networks, BuJo U, focuses on teaching people how to do bullet journaling. It's hosted by Ryder Carroll, who struggled with A.D.D. for years and found that this method of journaling helped him focus. It's instruction you'd probably never get in a traditional classroom.
2. Find digital communities
One of the cool things about the internet is that it's given life to a whole bunch of new community-based learning opportunities, with online communities. Chances are, whatever it is you want to learn, there's a community for that.
An online community is a structured place of community learning that will come together for extended periods of time. It will be made up of members very much like you, who share some of the same goals. If you're interested in community-based learning, joining a community that's already teaching and learning on your subject is one of the best ways to do it.
For example, one awesome community that was built with Mighty Pro is Ashley Fox's community, Wealth Without Wall Street. Ashley uses her knowledge and story as a former Wall Street trader to bring financial literacy to the other 99% of people who don't have access to Wall Street-level knowledge.
3. Think beyond traditional knowledge
Community-based learning can unlock different types of knowledge that don't fit traditional patterns. This can be a huge benefit. For example, many Indigenous communities are gleaning community learning from their elders, learning that would probably never be taught in schools. This is helping to preserve things like traditional legal knowledge, ways of engaging with the land, and even environmental sustainability for new generations.
4. Make the world your classroom
If you're a teacher who's been tasked with bringing community-based learning opportunities to your students, think outside the box. The whole world into your textbook. So next time you plan a field trip, instead of the usual suspects like museums or art galleries, where information is carefully cultivated, think about bringing students to places where they can really engage with community for themselves.
5. Get ready for messy
If you’re thinking about either finding or helping others find community-based learning, get ready for messy. Unlike sanitized classroom learning, community-based learning is going to be messy. You can't control what people say and do. If you are helping others explore community-based learning, say as a teacher or guide, you can help your students expect some messiness.
And if you’re stepping into it yourself, either finding or bringing together a community, remember that the diversity of voices and unexpected moments are one of the best parts in the adventure of community-based learning.
6. Different types of learning
Community-based learning can be about sitting and passively listening to information. But one of the best things about it is that it can also unlock different types of learning.
What about learning that lets you dig in and get your hands dirty? Experiential learning can have higher rates of retention, and let's face it, it can be more fun. If you're trying to unlock community-based learning, look for ways to learn that are different.
Ready to create a learning community?
One of the best ways to learn anything is in a community. So if you want to build community-based learning by bringing members together to master something interesting, that's what we're all about.
With Mighty Networks, our cultural software gives you a community-based learning platform with everything you need: an awesome forum function, 1:1 and all member chats, live streaming, live events, and - you guessed it - an interactive and immersive course platform. It's the perfect place to host a learning community of any kind. But don't take our word for it, you can try it free for 14 days - no credit card required.