just looking at jim barker's chapter in 'the pioneer gift'. he's talking about the idea of 'communities of practice', as defined by jean lave and etienne wenger in the 90s:
communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.
wenger's list of indicators that a community of practice has formed:
- sustained mutual relationships - harmonious or conflictual
- shared ways of engaging in doing things together
- a rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation
- an absence of introductory preambles, as if ocnversations and interactions were merely the continuation of an ongoing process
- very quick setup of a problem to be discussed
- substantial overlap in participants' descriptions of who belongs
- knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise
- mutually defining identities
- the ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products
- specific tools, representations and other artefacts
- local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter, jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones
- certain styles recognised as displaying membership
- a shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world
(from 'communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity', etienne wenger, 1998)
wenger proposes that learning, as a social process, occurs in the junction between four points: community (learning as belonging), meaning (learning as experience), identity (learning as becoming) and practice (learning as doing).
he goes on to argue that learning through participation occurs in the tension between these points, the individual identity 'against' the community, the experience of doing 'against' the collective meaning fo the doing. of course there is no 'against' here, rather it is more accurate to say that learning happens within a thorough and tenacious negotiation between the points.
it strikes me that Grace is a community of practice, and that this is how we do our learning. having just had a couple of conversations which tried to explain how newcomers learn / are shaped as christians in the context of an informal group like Grace, this is a useful piece of theory.