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Share to Know: Learning processes are at their best when they are social

Louise Foreman, Young Foundation

‘What was the most recent thing you learned?’

This was one of the questions that opened our Share to Know learning event last week, where practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborative learning methods came together to exchange ideas and insights about furthering the use of these important educational approaches. Responses to the question were diverse and surprising, setting the tone for a day of vibrant conversations and new perspectives.

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Through a series of short presentations and workshops we had the opportunity to share insights from our 2-year Erasmus+ exchange, Share to Know partnership, a collaboration between The Young Foundation, Street College (a project at Gangway, Germany’s largest youth organisation) and Alma Folk High School (a Swedish further education institution). What we all had in common is a belief that learning and education processes are at their best when they are strengths-orientated, learner-led and social.

We also learnt about the work of 5 other innovative people and projects:

  1. Enrol Yourself is a project that’s developing the concept of a ‘learning marathon’, running a 6-month learning programme with a curriculum that is collaboratively designed by participants.

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2. Reprezent FM is a youth-led radio station, a platform for people aged between 13 – 25 to discuss music, culture and other issues that matter to them, and learning a huge range of practical and personal skills along the way.

20170210_youngfoun_3833. Matt McStravick is the founder of the peer marketplace Echo, founding director of Sharing Economy UK and 2016 Clore Social Fellow. He’s drawing from these diverse experiences of peer-learning and exchange to explore the ways in which such approaches can foster empathic connections between people, and help to promote personal wellbeing.

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4. R CITY (‘R’ City Integrating Through Youth) is a project collaboration between Ardoyne Youth Club and the Hammer Youth Club in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Their young people are leading change in their communities by supporting each other’s growth, development and learning.

20170210_youngfoun_0235. Trade School South London is a self-organised school that runs on barter. It provides opportunities for anyone to teach their skills or knowledge to others in their community, and creates space for connection and learning within the fast pace of London life.

Throughout the day there were a number of themes that featured strongly:

  1. the importance of leadership that is driven by genuine passion and a generosity towards others, and which can shift between individuals rather than being established as a fixed hierarchy;
  2. the potential to foster empathy and a sense of community through collaborative peer-learning;
  3. and the huge significance of informal interaction as part of the trust-building and learning experience (the ‘magic’ that happens during breaks from structured activities).

20170210_youngfoun_257We also recognise that there are many community-based projects who are already experienced practitioners of peer-to-peer and collaborative approaches, but without necessarily identifying their methods in this way. This raises important questions about the extent to which they are being recognised and supported to undertake this work, and whether the range of holistic outcomes that they enable for individuals and communities are as well-documented as the specific outputs or metrics, which are the ‘product’ of the process.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about Share to Know and the partnership’s experiences of peer-learning, you can download a copy of the programme report – a short guide that aims to support educators (and others working with young people) to develop their use of peer-to-peer methods.

Also take a look at this fantastic visual summary of the event from More than Minutes:

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Photographs by Anthony Epes.