Exploring “The Game” and Emotions – The “Hard Parts” – Attention, Memory and Transfer

I’m a Seahawks fan. Seahawks

I have been since the inception of the franchise in 1974 and their first game played August 1, 1976. This is a team that knows how to “Play the Game” as Perkins discusses in his book Making Learning Whole. I make the comparison between the football team and learning because each involves emotion, hard parts, attention, memory, and transfer. These are the topics we covered in the last two weeks.

Demetriou and Wilson (2008) say “From early on our emotional development is inextricably intertwined with our acquisition of knowledge. Psychological research has revealed similarities between human cognitive and emotional processes”. As teachers, and students, it’s important to recognize the impact emotion will have on our acceptance of the learning. In 1975, I had just moved to Washington (state). I knew very few people and didn’t even have a job waiting! But, like most people in the Evergreen State, I was caught up in the emotions of having a new team EXCITEMENT, FUN, RECOGNITION, and PRIDE were just a few of the emotions we all felt.

In a learning environment, we need the same emotions in order to have motivated and connected students. Perkins refers to how needs and affect come together to motivate learning.

These needs include:

1. Physiological – hunger, thirst, bodily comforts
2. Safety/security – out of danger, no threats
3. Belongingness/Love – acceptance & affection
4. Esteem – achievement, competency, and affiliation
5. Cognitive – to know, understand, and explore
6. Aesthetic – symmetry, order, and beauty
7. Self-actualization – potential, self-fulfillment (Huitt, 2001).

Some of those needs are emotional and they all can be reasons for attaining education. Wlodkowski (1999) points out the “engagement in learning is the visible outcome of motivation. Our emotions are a part of and significantly influence our motivation”. Dr. Luis Pessoa (2009) discusses how “cognition and emotion are effectively integrated in the brain”. Dr. Ruby Parker (2014) states “emotion colors every learning experience” and that “every lesson we are to produce must take into account both rational and emotional appeal, because both the cognitive and the emotional sections of the brain are in play whenever learning is involved”.

Emotions can also be affected by our motivations. For the team, extrinsic motivation is money, prestige, winning. For the student, it may be grades, a better job, money (notice how that has a part in almost everything). There are also intrinsic motivations. My all-time favorite player, Steve Largent became the “player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks”. (Booth, 2008). Students are also motivated intrinsically by the joy of learning, dedication, integrity. Yes, it’s a theme.

Teaching English to non-native speakers will be a study in emotion. There are cultural differences to understand and address. While some cultures are more demonstrative about their emotions, others are not. As the instructor, it’s important to recognize the impact emotion will have on acceptance of the learning. We have all experienced teachers whose affect was charming, grumpy, or deadpan. Walking into a classroom and seeing the emotion, or lack of it, on a teacher’s face will affect how the student begins the lesson.

Oh, there were hard parts to starting a new football team. Some of the challenges faced by the new owners included finding the right coaches, getting good players, and building a stadium. Each of these was a singular concept, built of other – smaller concepts, which would come together for the whole. In learning, there are also hard parts. Students use both cognitive and metacognitive strategies to work on the hard parts. While they are consciously thinking about the subject, they are using cognitive strategies which can be general or specific. Like the Seahawks, they will have a plan. Stephen Luke (2006) says, “When it comes to teaching and learning, having a plan—or strategy— is definitely the way to go”.

In football, goals are achieved one yard at a time. In learning, instructors will assess students and set a baseline. From that point on, learning will be added in incremental bits. From Sheckley and Bell (2006):

Strategies for learning:

1. Begin with the Baseline of Prior Experience
2. Extend Learners’ Consciousness – Our job as instructors, then, is to expand the layers of their consciousness—remove areas of blindness—so their consciousness of adult learning has a
broader and richer texture. In doing so, we also help learners make connections between these new perspectives and their prior experiences. Without this connection, the new idea would
not have life.
3. Enrich Consciousness – real life problems

Thank goodness instructional designers have already developed a game plan for teaching English to adult learners. Luke (2006) tells us about Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD). Students are introduced to a range of learning strategies designed to develop literacy skills across an entire curriculum.
Key points include:

1. Develop and activate background knowledge (Class)
2. Discuss the strategy, including benefits and expectations (Class)
3. Model the strategy (Teacher)
4. Memorize the strategy (Student)
5. Support the strategy collaboratively (Teacher & Class)
6. Use the strategy by yourself, independently (Student)

And the fundamental features of SRSD include:

1. Explicit and extensive strategy instruction on writing, self-regulation, and content knowledge
2. Interactive learning and active collaboration
3. Individualized instructional support and feedback tailored to student needs and abilities
4. Self-paced learning, with proficiency demonstrations required in order to progress from one stage of instruction to the next

In addition to having a plan, I regularly refer to Dave’s ESL Café for ideas from other teachers.

Pay attention in class! We’ve all heard that at some point or told our own children the same thing. Can you imagine a football coach telling a room full of 250+ pound men to pay attention while he goes over a game plan? Sure. It has to happen or each player will hit the field without the game-winning strategy. Students must do the same. And our job, as instructors, is to make it possible. Recognizing, and appealing to different learning styles is one way. We want the players/students to be engaged. Let’s provide valuable feedback. Perkins talks about the importance of communicative feedback as opposed to the “hearts and minds theory”. Instead of glossing over what needs improvement in hopes the player/student will do better next time, let’s work on those areas that need improvement. Football teams run drills. Teachers also run drills and one purpose is for the students to have those skills in their memory. We will focus on learning grammar and vocabulary one piece at a time. We will build on existing knowledge. McGinty says “Applying conceptual understanding from one setting to the next requires students to utilize the brain’s capacity to build new neural networks”. This is also true for instructors. Although we recognize our preferred learning styles, we can encourage ourselves and our students to stretch and learn in other ways.

Fougnie (2008) says memory is the “mental workspace where important information is kept in a highly active state, available for a variety of other cognitive processes”. We’ve learned however, that when instructors create activities that are too complex, it hinders the students’ ability to hold onto working memory and access stored information. There is a limited capacity for how much can be held in working memory (Gazzaley, 2011). In football, the quarterback isn’t expected to memorize every play. He has a playbook (notes for a student), and coaching from the sideline. When something changes on the field, he has to be able to access the correct play. Students have a similar problem and often rely on the teachers in the same way as a coach. We will also use Active Learning methods. With Active Learning, the students are involved in the process and developing their problem solving and critical thinking skills. Memorization will play a key part in learning English. However, we want to make it easy by using visual aids, audio tracks, and practice. http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_doolittle_how_your_working_memory_makes_sense_of_the_world

Throw a pass! Transfer that knowledge! Paul Anderson mentions that will all the learning he did in his field, he began to truly understand the subject when he began to teach others. We all are in the process of transferring our bits and pieces of the puzzle into a picture that will make sense. Research shows “adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives” (Rogers, 1961). This is especially true for English Language Learners (ELL’s). There is a reason they are learning a second, or higher, language. The learning must have relevance to real-life tasks, and should be organized around life/work situations rather than subject matter. Eventually, the ELL’s will begin to think in English rather than translate everything in their minds first. When that happens, the puzzle will be complete and the game worth playing.

Current Cognitive & Affective State

Anderson, P. (2009). Metacognition: Learning about learning [Video File]. Retrieved from

Booth, T. (2008, December 19). Holmgren given Largent Award by players. KomoNews.com. Retrieved
from http://www.komonews.com/sports/seahawks/36481564.html

Dave’s ESL Café. Retrieved from http://www.eslcafe.com/

Doolittle, P. (2013, June). How your working memory makes sense of the world. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Fougnie, D. (2008). The relationship between attention and working memory. Retrieved from
in press-chap 1.pdf

Gazzaley, A. (2011). Brain: Memory and Multi-tasking. [Youtube video]. Retrieved from

Instructional Design. (n.d.) Adult learning (K.P. Cross). Retrieved from

Luke, S. D. (2006). The power of strategy instruction. Evidence for Education, 1(1), 1-12

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (2013). Brain-Friendly teaching supports learning transfer. New
Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (137), 49-59. doi:10.1002/ace.20044

Merlot Pedagogy. (1997-2014). Teaching strategies. Retrieved from

Nordgren, L.F. & Dijksterhuis (2011). IntroductIon: StIll thInkIng dIfferent. Social Cognition, 29 (6), 625–628.

Perkins, D. (2009). Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching can Transform Education.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sheckley, B. G., & Bell, S. (2006). Experience, consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction.
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 110, 43-52.

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1999). Motivation and diversity: A framework for teaching. New Directions for Teaching & Learning(78), 7.


Cognitive Science and Teaching ESL

Cognitive Connections

Cognitive Science and Teaching ESL

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology”.  That doesn’t narrow it down much.  I have a background in psychology and this class seems to build on prior learning and research.  The reality is we are learning about how we learn. 

Computers have been compared to human brains.  Computers can process millions of bits of information very quickly and perform tasks or answer questions.  Computers can even converse!  However, at this time, they are not able to feel emotion.  We’ve discovered emotion, or feelings, are necessary for true thinking.  “Feelings can be seen as responses to facts and sensations that exist beyond the tight horizon of awareness. They can also be thought of as messages from the unconscious, as conclusions it has reached after considering a wide range of information — they are the necessary foundation of thought”. (Lehrer, 2007).  Emotion is part of the human essence.  Some may call it the soul.

We’ve discussed Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I would argue feeling or experiencing emotion is not yet possible for AI.  Of course, Hollywood movies often have unlikely heroes with Artificial Intelligence and emotion.  Some examples are WALL-E, Johnny 5 (Short Circuit), C3PO (Star Wars), and Rosie the Maid (The Jetsons).  Even Data from Star Trek was able to implant an ‘emotion’ chip so he could have feelings too.

Johnny Five

William Rapaport (1996) asked if computers, while executing algorithms, are “simulating mental states … or exhibiting them.  Do such computers think”?  I have wondered if AI has a super-fast, condensed way of learning.  Deb Roy (2011) recorded his child learning to talk and points out that much of the learning is based on social interaction. http://www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word?awesm=on.ted.com_Roy&utm_content=awesm-bookmarklet&utm_medium=on.ted.com-static&utm_source=t.co

So the question is, how does this relate to teaching ESL to adults?  We need building blocks to help those students learn.  Those include logic, rules, and concepts.  Do they come in any particular order?

I lean more toward thinking the rules/logic/concepts is almost cyclical in nature.  But, I still think the rules are the beginnings with early learning.  Parents, and other caregivers, teach infants and children basic life lessons such as what constitutes acceptable behavior.  Young children’s concepts of life are so limited because they just don’t have experience yet.  It’s a different situation with adults who begin problem-solving with a concept and then choose, or adapt, rules and logic.  But, they had to have the rules there in the first place.

Rules are the guidelines for behavior.  They are learned and keep life from deteriorating into chaos.  Teaching ESL will include grammar rules such as “i before e, except after c” and “who/whom”.  Another example is when to use “bring or take”.  Many languages, other than English, do not differentiate between the two.  Dave’s ESL Café has some wonderful grammar lessons available at no cost. 

Logic is a name for the general family of formal proof systems with inference rules.  It’s reasonable and based on connections between facts and observations.  Going forward into a teaching position, logic should be helpful in getting students to make the connections between ideas and experiences in order to develop their language skills.  We want them to be able to use both inductive and deductive reasoning to develop concepts.

Concepts are the big picture ideas and are the representations of our mental images wherein groups of similar features are grouped together.  I have to reference New World Encyclopedia (2008) which defines it as “concepts are the categorization of objects, events, or people that share common properties. By using concepts, we are able to organize complex notions into simpler and therefore more easily usable forms”.  Teaching concepts to ESL learners may be more difficult than the rules and logic but may also be the basis for learning the rules and logic.

We know children and adults learn differently.  Therefore, it is logical that children and adults would solve problems in different ways.  Children have not yet developed critical thinking skills which are helpful in problem-solving.  They are, however, very creative and may think of solutions that would not occur to adults with their already established rules.  Jean Piaget (1952) believed children learn best through doing and actively exploring.  This may help them solve simple problems but not more complex issues.  Adult ESL learners have been compared to young learners who are just developing the schemata needed to assimilate and accommodate learning.  (McLeod, 2009).  An example of this is learning about food and having a restaurant experience.  This was part of my lesson plan in a previous blog post.

Next, we need to look at how adults learn.  Carl Rogers (1961) believed adult learners need their learning to be practical and applicable to their lives. Each adult brings individual experience to their learning and each learner may be in a different stage of life.  There are many psychological tests available to help us identify our individual preferences for how we learn.  I plan to teach ESL to adults.  Literature tells us most adults are visual learners.  However, there are different learning styles and educators must recognize this and be able to teach to all. 
Hey Teacher

McGinty says “Applying conceptual understanding from one setting to the next requires students to utilize the brain’s capacity to build new neural networks”. 


The different learning styles represent how we get information to the brain so it can process and we can learn.  An active learner will touch.  A visual learner will see.  A verbal learner will hear. “The brain has neurons organized by synaptic connections…” which form into patterns.  The sensory input patterns will translate to concepts, images, and analogies (Stanford, 2010).  “The human brain is an active processor of information.  Brain-based instruction recognizes the fact that learning develops with the increase of neural networks and creates experiences where students can make connections between new and prior learning” (McGinty, et al, 2013).

In conclusion, the cognitive science of learning and teaching is still in its early stages.  Research continues to find the best methods.  It is expected Artificial Intelligence will play a stronger role.  But, most importantly, we must continue to learn and grow our brains.



Dave’s ESL Café (n.d.) Grammar lesson plans. Retrieved from http://www.eslcafe.com/grammar/confusing_words_bring_take.html

Lehrer, J. (2007, April 29).  Hearts and minds.  Boston Globe.  Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/04/29/hearts__minds/

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (2013). Brain-Friendly teaching supports learning transfer. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, (137), 49-59. doi:10.1002/ace.20044  

McLeod, S. A. (2009). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Rapaport, W.J. (2006, October 29). Cognitive science. Retrieved from www.cs.buffalo.edu/pub/WWW/faculty/rapaport

Rogers, C.R. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Roy, D. (2011, March). The birth of a word . Retrieved from  http://www.ted.com/talks/deb_roy_the_birth_of_a_word?awesm=on.ted.com_Roy&utm_content=awesm-bookmarklet&utm_medium=on.ted.com-static&utm_source=t.co

Jozwiak, T. (2009, June 3) . Johnny Five is Alive Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17_7-cLukO0

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2010). Cognitive Science. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive-science/#Ima


Open Educational Resources

Just like many trends and movements, the positives are often presented first and most prominently, while the cautions or critiques require extra research and critical thought. You have been presented with both sides in your readings and video this week. Discuss what you believe is the most exciting and promising aspect of the Open Education movement and the biggest challenge to be overcome associated with it.


It seems we have been leading up to this moment from the beginning of the first class in The Future of Education.  I found this definition and believe it sums it up nicely, “Open Educational Resources (OER) are high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge. They also demonstrate great potential as a mechanism for instructional innovation as networks of teachers and learners share best practices” (Hewlett).  This leads to what is “exciting and promising” about OER. 

*  High Quality – There is a wealth of information available on the Web for anyone who wants to take the time and do the research.  In times past, a student or interested person would not have ready access to peer-reviewed articles or research papers.  We can find information about everything from weather systems to the first printed 3-D house. In education, an example might be the sharing of techniques that work best in different classrooms.

*  Openly Licensed – Free information available to all.  When following organizations on Twitter or educator’s blogs, we have access to free information.  Software, YouTube videos such as from Michael McNally, teaching materials such as from Dave’s ESL Café are available.

We discussed previously Communities of Practice and Professional Learning Communities.  The common theme is to teach and learn from each other.  Open Educational Resources are a key resource for these groups and may be either formal or informal learning.  Bonk (2009, p. 356) discusses the “convergence of three factors: (1) an enhanced Web-based learning infrastructure, (2) billions of pages of free and open content placed within the infrastructure, and (3) a culture of participation and knowledge-sharing…”.  CoP’s and PLC’s have learned to use these factors to meet the goal of creating a better learning environment for the learners.

On the other hand, there may be some challenges associated with OER.  The first one that came to mind is who tests and confirms the validity of information found online?  We’re all familiar with SNOPES, a website dedicated to proving or debunking urban myths.  But, what about educational ideas?  Students may Google a word or topic and generally the first thing to pop up is from Wikipedia.  While this website can be very useful, it also may have unverified information.  The student must keep an open mind and actually do the research.  Another challenge, addressed by Bonk (p.377-378) is online plagiarism. Apparently, there are websites that will write a student’s papers for them for a nominal fee.  Bonk also pointed out that “information of the world will get into the wrong hands” (p.379) in reference to terrorists.  One can learn to make a bomb by perusing certain websites. 

OER’s are fantastic and has already been used for my Learning Activity.  One of the best sources for free ideas is Dave’s ESL Cafe.  This is a website for everything and everyone interested in teaching or learning ESL.  There are lesson plans, job postings, ideas for maintaining control in the classroom, and information about different cultures.  I also found several more great resources via Twitter and organizations I follow.  One such is PBSTeachers @pbsteachers.  They have collections of educational games for all age groups.   Edmodo @edmodo has ideas for ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.  And TeachThought @TeachThought has the most amazing visual of a digital classroom http://www.teachthought.com/technology/elements-of-a-digital-classroom/

I wonder though, who monitors all this information?  Should it even be monitored?  We’ve looked at OER’s for educators but there is also a wealth of information for learners.  Some of the learners are children and teens.  Are the parents and teachers responsible for filtering information?  





Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 9781118013816

Dave’s ESL Café. Retrieved from http://www.eslcafe.com/

McNally, M. (2012, March 22). Democratizing access to knowledge: Find out what open educational resources (oer) have to offer. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2IPOgl0ZE8

OER [image]. Wikiversity. Retrieved from http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources_for_school_teachers_from_developing_nations

Open Educational Resources. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  Retrieved from http://www.hewlett.org/programs/education/open-educational-resources


CLASSROOM TYPES – What’s New? Where Are We Going?

Classroom Types

Crawford, et al (2008) said “There are three primary formats which can be used to design, develop and implement learning environments”:

     • Traditional: Face-to-Face Learning Environments

     • Web-Enhanced: Hybrid Learning Environments

     • Web-Based: Distance or Online Learning Environments

A first look at face-to-face (F2F) learning shows it being the traditional type of teaching/learning where participants are in the same place at the same time.  Instruction may be based on textbooks, lectures, tests, and assignments.  Students are generally listening to lectures.  The curriculum is set ahead of time and may not change from year to year. 

Teaching techniques which work best for the traditional environment include “Discussion Strategies, Humor in the Classroom, and Lecture Strategies” (Merlot, 1997 – 2014).  Each of these is useful for engaging students in face-to-face learning.  In my current position, the trainer relies heavily on all three.  She is dynamic and uses humor in her lectures to help with what might be an otherwise dull subject.   She also has textbooks, tests, and learning assignments. 

A second look indicates a metamorphosis to other types of learning, especially utilizing technology.  Hybrid Learning Environments are described as the “best of both worlds” (Crawford, et al).  This model brings technology into the classroom with online interactive activities.  Doering and Veletsianos (2008) gave a great example of this – Adventure Learning using Go North! “The AL approach to design, development, and ultimately learning is based upon the understanding that experience rather than osmosis guides meaningful learning experiences”. This series of online programs uses both experiential learning and inquiry-based learning.  Students and teachers alike were enthusiastic about the program. 

Teaching strategies from Merlot are “Active Learning, Games/Experiments/Simulations, Inquiry-Guided Learning, Learning Communities, and Online/Hybrid Courses”.  With Active Learning, the students are involved in the process and developing their problem solving and critical thinking skills.  A game like this might be used for teaching language to higher-level learners. While successful with younger students, Active Learning would also be effective for adults.  An example of this is the restaurant or museum visit for English Language Learners discussed in earlier units. 

The third learning environment mentioned by Crawford, is Distance/Online Learning.  With this format, there is no formal classroom and everything is done online.  

Bates and Watson (2008) discuss the importance of course design to create an effective learning experience.  Atkinson & Tomsen (2009) share their experiences with Second Life, a virtual learning game which has learners completely immersed in a realistic environment with the ability to change and control outcomes. 

Teaching strategies that are applicable to Distance/Online Learning include Experiential Learning, Games/Experiments/Simulations, and Learner-Centered Teaching.    With Learner-Centered Teaching, the instructor becomes the facilitator and students are responsible for learning.  Students are encouraged to research topics and share their learning.  Communication is very important. This is exactly what we are doing with this class at Post. 

Online learning wasn’t my first thought for teaching ESL, but there has been documented success with audio/video recordings. Further research is needed to see if this is an option, but I believe Hybrid Learning will be best for adult ELL’s. 


What an interesting lesson!  I am remembering the lessons from my undergraduate classes which discussed different learning styles.

According to the Memletics Learning Styles Questionnaire (2003 –2007), there are seven distinct learning styles:           

1)    Visual (spatial).You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

2)    Aural (auditory-musical). You prefer using sound and music.

3)    Verbal (linguistic). You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

4)    Physical (kinesthetic). You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.

5)    Logical (mathematical). You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

6)    Social (interpersonal). You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

7)    Solitary (intrapersonal). You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

 It makes sense that different classroom settings would be more effective for different learners. The tools I predict having the greatest impact are the SMARTBoard and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL).  


Do you think online will eventually, and completely, replace traditional classrooms?

Check It Out!

SMART Board – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U05WeXPGlk 

CALL – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufvMr_IzjLY

The Flipped Classroom Model (J. Gerstein)




Advanology.com (2003 – 2007) Learning styles inventory.  Retrieved from http://www.learning-styles-online.com/inventory/

Bates, C., & Watson, M. (2008). Re-learning teaching techniques to be effective in hybrid and online courses.  Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 13(1), 38-44.

Crawford, C. M., Smith, R. A., & Smith, M. S. (2008). Course student satisfaction results: Differentiation between face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. [Article]. CEDER Yearbook, 135-149.

Doering, A., & Veletsianos, G. (2008). Hybrid online education: Identifying integration models using adventure learning. [Article]. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(1), 23-41.

Gerstein, J. (n.d.) The flipped classroom model. [Web log post] Retrieved from http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-flipped-classroom-model-a-full-picture/

GoNorth! Adventure Learning Series.  LT Learning Lab. University of Minnesota.  Retrieved from http://lt.umn.edu/projects/gonorth

Merlot Pedagogy. (1997-2014). Teaching strategies. Retrieved from http://pedagogy.merlot.org/TeachingStrategies.html


What’s the difference between CoP and PLC?

Community of Practice (CoP) is defined by Etienne Wenger (n.d.) “are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”.   They share a craft or profession and there will usually be experts .   This is particularly relevant in the workplace as co-workers teach and learn from each other.  In trades, apprenticeships are the CoP.  The members of a Community of Practice share experience and best practices with each other. 

In education, there are three dimensions mentioned:

  1. Internal:  Finding ways to “organize educational experiences that ground school learning in practice through participation in communities around subject matters”.
  2. External:  Finding the connections of student experiences to practice and life outside school
  3. Lifetime learning:  Organized CoP’s which focus on topics of continuing interest.

The Community of Practice may also share informal learning such as happens in my workplace daily.

For example, while reviewing photographs of a damaged property, it was unclear as to what may have caused the damage.  There was an impromptu gathering at the one desk while we discussed the loss.  Because we were not able to come to consensus, we began looking at ways to find the answer.  One person suggested going online to search news articles.  Another suggested calling the demolition company to find out what their assignment was.  This was a situation involving basic technology, but has the potential to use more advanced technology. 

Another example is the electric lineman apprenticeship program.  My daughter began as a meter reader but wanted to become a lineman.  She took formal classes and was accepted into the apprenticeship program.  This was a very limited Community of Practice with peer-to-peer learning and.  As the students became more proficient, they also became the teachers.   


Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) seem to primarily refer to “a shared vision or running a school in which everyone can make a contribution, and staff are encouraged to collectively undertake activities and reflection in order to constantly improve their students’ performance”  (Cranston, 2011). 

Administrators, teachers, and staff all work together, with the students’ best interests in mind by “researching best practices and pursuing data to bolster decision making Cranston (2011)

The six attributes of PLC according to Eaker, DuFour and DuFour (2002):

  1. Shared mission, vision, values
  2. Collaborative teams
  3. Collective inquiry
  4. Action orientation and experimentation
  5. Continuous improvement
  6. Results orientation

These are especially important in business. 

Bill Hall, in a recent blog, gave the example of slogans that work because they epitomize the PLC of the organization.  Apple’s “Think Different” was an early slogan which “underscores the importance of breaking with tradition…” (2014). Apple continues to use and develop technology by allowing its employees to put the attributes to work.

 Both involve community and wanting the best for the members.  What if we could broaden the scope of PRACTICE and PROFESSIONAL LEARNING to involve neighborhoods, towns, states, and countries?  

Working together …Image



Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119(1), 28-31.

Eaker, R., DuFour, R.,  & DuFour, R. (2002). Getting started:  Reculturing schools to become professional learning communities.  Bloominton, IN: National Educational Service

Cranston, J. (2011). Relational trust: The glue that binds a professional learning community  . [Article]. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 57(1), 59-72. Retrieved from    https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/courses/EDU520.901238026230/Documents/Relational%20Trust_The%20Glue%20that%20Binds%20a%20Professional%20Learning%20Community.pdf

Hall, B. (2014, March 18). PLC Lessons learned from the corporate world.  Retrieved from http://www.allthingsplc.info/blog/view/plc-lessons-learned-from-the-corporate-world/242

Wenger, E. (n.d.).  Communities of practice: A brief introduction.  [Website].  Retrieved from http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brieft-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf