Info on The Learning Community LO222
Fri, 24 Feb 1995 02:10:18 -0500

So many people asked for information on The Learning Community I mentioned
in my INTRO on 2/15/95, I thought I would share it.

Starting The Learning Community:

I invited about 12 people to read The Fifth Discipline and get together to
talk about it in March 1991. The concepts were provocative and rich enough
that we have continued to meet each month to discuss issues in group
learning, learning theory, and group process for four years now. We came
to be called "The Learning Community" through a suggestion by George Por
at our second meeting. We especially liked it because of the double
entrendre of the acronym, TLC ("tender loving care").


The purpose of the group is to exchange ideas and to discuss issues based
on shared values and interests in learning--particularly learning in the
workplace. Our emphasis is on group learning and community-building--not
just as subjects to learn about, but as principles to practice ourselves.

We have about 15 committed long-time "regulars" and about 20-25 people
each month. I produce a monthly newsletter that goes to about 70 people.
Besides announcing the next meeting agenda, I write up a summary of the
last month's meeting--which is clearly more interpretive than documentary!
(I have to admit to my own filters...)

We think of a learning community as a field (or context) for learning. In
the case of The Learning Community, it is a field for learning about
learning itself. And, it is just as much about building community as it is
about learning. It involves:

- Exposure to new concepts and ways to thinking
- Testing assumptions and beliefs
- Learning and practicing new ways to interact and learn together
- Exploring both content (subjects/topics) and group process
- Dealing with challenges and dilemmas of individual differences.

Practices and Norms:
Our conversations focus on concepts presented in Peter Senge's book and
related issues such as:
Dialogue Leadership Community-building
Systems thinking Team work Change management
Learning theory Action learning Culture change
Creativity Sustainability Chaos theory

Each month a member volunteers to develop a topic or an interactive
session and leads the group meeting. We feel we have much to learn from
each other, but we also invite outside speakers. We have experimented with
all types of learning formats, from lecture to discussion to interactive

We seek to balance our attention to:
Analysis and Synthesis Order and Chaos
Parts and Wholes Stability and Adaptability
Thinking and Feeling Espousing and Inquiring
Rational and Intuitive Content and Process
Machine and Human Theory and Practice

Group process is largely self-managed. People contribute to the process by:
- Respecting other's opinions
- Allowing people to speak without interruption
- Allowing time for reflection on comments and on our own internal thinking
- Examining one's own assumptions and helping others to do the same
- Providing supportive feedback to others to facilitate their learning
- Being reflective practitioners.

In The Learning Community, we demonstrate these values to different
degrees at different times. I refer to the group as a discussion group
rather than a dialogue group. This is intentional, since we have studied
dialogue and practiced it and recognize that most of our conversations are
not dialogical. We have tended to do more advocating than inquiring in
many meetings and often stay at the instrumental level, dealing with
symptoms and solutions rather than exploring underlying beliefs. As our
skills in dialogue techniques have grown, we have come to use them more
and more. Every month, we have two or three new ideas we want to explore
together and more and more people who want to join the group. It has been
an extraordinary amount of work and extraordinarily rewarding to have this
group to learn and work with. Definitely a labor of love.

I hope this gives you a sense of what we're about and how we go about it.
Diane Weston DMWeston@AOL.COM