Thoughts about “learning in the collective”

I think learning in the collective is something to work towards as a teacher. It can be hard with elementary school students, especially the first grade students that I teach. I have been working with them on becoming more mindful. I am really trying to teach them resiliency. I had a mom message me today and tell me that her daughter came home and talked to her about being resilient and persevering. She was really impressed that her daughter could explain it to both her and her husband. I try not to underestimate my students; they always surprise me when I do. They can do more than I give them credit for and I try not to be the one holding them back. So could they be mindful enough to learn in the collective using technology? I am not sure. They are still learning how to sign into the computer and even though some of them can read, it is mainly simple stories. They are also working on writing, but they are also pretty simple words that they can sound out. Another problem I foresee with trying to teach my students to learn in the collective is that “there is no targeted goal or learning objective” (Thomas & Brown, 2011). In my school, I am strongly encouraged to have a learning objective for every lesson. I don’t think I could pitch doing something that did not have a viable learning objective for my students. I think I could get around it if I focused my learning objective on students using higher order thinking to create and problem solve during our makerspace centers.

I did find a different explanation of collective learning that I think explains how I try to run the makerspace centers in my classroom. Laberge (2008) wrote, “Collective Learning occurs though group conversations around questions that matter. Such conversations can take place either through one-time, multiple or ongoing activities involving in-person meetings or workshops, online- or tele- conferencing, or multiple engagement processes involving a combination of all of these. The goal of Collective Learning in an organizational or community group is to increase the collective knowledge, understanding, and capacity of members around the issue, such that independent individual action and decisions, as well as any collective action, can be aligned with the system’s interests.” My students work together in their makerspace centers and I often hear students exchange ideas on how to build something. Sometimes, students from a different center overhear what the people in the center are saying and they discuss ideas. Today, I saw students work across centers to try to build an arch shaped bridge using dominos. It started when the students at the Tinker Toys center built a five-wheel car and the students at the dominos center thought it should have a garage. They then decided that they wanted it to go under a bridge. There were six students working together building the bridge. It kept falling at the same spot, so they talked about and tried different ideas. Thinking back about how they were discussing changes to make, I think their “learning occurs when people try to make sense of and use the knowledge they find. As a by-produce they create new knowledge that feeds back into the collective knowledge” (Littlejohn, n.d.). They learned that the way they were stacking and placing the dominos wasn’t working and they tried out each other’s ideas.


Laberge, M. (2008, June 17). Collective Learning & Co-Creative Engagement. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from Masterful Facilitation Institute:

Littlejohn, A. (n.d.). Ccollective Learning Examples. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from Little by Littlejohn:

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


7 thoughts on “Thoughts about “learning in the collective”

  1. Cherie- I think students that young could start to learn in the collective. In our school we are also encourage to have a learning objective. I think that is collective learning what the students are doing in the makerspace. They are working towards a goal. They are communicating and working with each other and that is what working in the collective is. I bet it is so neat to see these kids this young working together and striving to work together to figure something out.


    1. I agree that my students do learn in the collective during our makerspace centers. I wish I could do more with technology and learning in the collective, but they are too young to use it effectively for that purpose. It really is fun to watch them exchange ideas and discuss problems. It’s hard to describe. I’m just so proud of what they can do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would be too! that is awesome what they are doing! 🙂


  2. You raised some valid points in your blog about learning in the collective and our school system. Learning in the collective students are working towards a goal, but in school there are specific goals we need to make sure students meet.

    You wrote: “I had a mom message me today and tell me that her daughter came home and talked to her about being resilient and persevering.” I think this is so cool. I think it’s so important for students to learn how to be resilient at a young age, so that as they get older they are prepared for challenges. I would image being a military child also helps them be resilient.

    You also mentioned you have very emergent readers. Have you tried PebbleGo in your class? Talk to Budge about her PebbleGo animal research project. PebbleGo is an online resource geared for primary students. It has science and social studies text that can be read to the students


    1. I used PebbleGo last year. I should start using it again. I will talk to Budge about the animal research project. It sounds both fun and interesting. I am sure my students would love it. Thank you for your comments. I think it is hard for military students in general because things are always changing. I do think it helps them be more resilient. Some of my students are really struggling with friends moving away. I know it is hard for me to have so many leave.


  3. I think I interpret the lack of a targeted goal to mean that getting to an end goal is not scripted in the collective. I think you can have big goals and standards but giving students opportunities such as your makerspace would certainly help them to work towards those goals and standards. If “Collective Learning occurs though group conversations around questions that matter”, then it could simply be discussions in your classroom where students could talk about anything and they could share their takeaways from the group conversation. I think we need to model these collectives and give students that structured boundary that is described in our text so that their inquiry is meaningful.


  4. I have always felt the same way. If we hold the bar up high kids will aspire to reach it. If we can demonstrate these collectives to them they can manage it and work together to use this model to come up with amazing ideas. We do it whenever we have them read their papers to each other and give feedback to their peers, it is just on a larger scale. Who says we have to start out big. We take steps towards it, so the kids are guided through the process, then they can eventually work their way up to a larger media. Even if you just start with correspondence through blogging with their peers, then reach out and correspond with another school through e-mail or a social network put into place by the teachers it can be a starting point to larger things.


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