Notes from talk “Landscapes in and across landscapes of practice”-Etienne Wenger-Trayner

On 28 January I attended a conference on Transformative Learning and Identity at the Emdrup Copenhagen campus of Aarhus University, at the Institut for Uddannelse og Pædagogik (DPU), the audience seemed mostly to be educational consultants, teachers, and “teacher teachers”.

Here are my notes, I also took notes from Thomas Ziehe’s talk which I will add later on but Knut Illeris’ talk in Danish, I don’t have notes for, sorry. And that is a shame as the event was also a book launch of his new book “Transformativ Læring og Identitet

Etienne-Wenger (seems to be known as Wenger only in most literature but in his powerpoint said Wenger-Trayner so referred to below as EWT).

Where can the theory EWT co-developed in his co-authored famous book on Situated Learning, usefully move to now?

Very little equipment to talk about meaningfulness, in those days.
Once in AI you had the equivalent of a restaurant script, choose from menu and eat..put into computer script as meaning in AI research.

EWT joined an institute of anthropologists, construction of meaning happening in social systems. There is a negotiation of meaning inside the system. The social system! So communities of practices, seemed to be the simplest system where that took place.

Lave studied apprentice tailors in Africa, the master – apprentice system. A simple context where young apprentices negotiated the meaning of being a tailor.
Engaging with a community that had a certain competence, and becoming that person too.

Master-apprentice relationship is only one, it is broader, i.e. a community of practice, a living curriculum.

Social learning, not opposed to individual learning. So concept of identity becomes very important so also a criticism of AI.
Exploring a community, a trajectory, becomes a full member, so cannot separate memory from identity.

Context in which that meaning takes place.
Community establishes over time a certain way of doing things. How to do that?

Social world is a kind of curriculum. But that inherits all the complexity of social systems.
Guru of social theory, Knut, here in Denmark, just published his 200th book, hard to say to him “bullshit”. How is this received? How to debate established authority figures?

From a year long ethnographic study, changed idea of workers don’t know their role, to they understand how to survive as company does not value them.
To make an office an agreeable place to work they created local place to survive meaningless jobs, with a sense of identity. Still, a terrible job.
Worst thing in that job is to think about work after 5. So intellectual way of looking at this, that everyone should know everything is the WRONG way of looking at the workers.

So the EWT’s theory Community of Practice is not a theory of power but a theory where power is central.

Now how do we apply that to teaching?A teacher should say:
Do you understand the history of learning of our community?
Now we will ask you to do something new..what should we include?
Read a dissertation and ask, does this do something new? Does this change my view of the world?
So even in an academic world there is tension between competence and personal experience of the world, so a student must renegotiate the regime of competence whereby members can recognize other members. Whose contribution is recognized as knowledge?

What is the body of knowledge? A librarian might say the repository. EWT would say that is NOT the body of knowledge, the body of knowledge is much more a landscapes of different practices.
So actually it is different communities, body of knowledge of a profession is a very complex system of multiple communities defining multiple competencies, e.g. what defines a good teacher. No practice is SIMPLY an implementation of another’s knowledge.

How are you defined against the landscapes of practices?

NB EWT has an afternoon to learn Copenhagen, does not want rule book or names of all streets, would not get a feeling for Copenghagen. Need to develop a “feel” for subjects etc.

Knowledgeability
negotiating identity in a complex landscape (title of slide)
Many expectations based on you as a teacher: principals, parents, students, governments–teacher is in the middle of many different communities who want to say what will happen in the classroom. A professional dances the dance, translates all of that into a landscape, resolves all tensions of landscape into a moment that is meaningful.
How do you become who you are? (Build on what Thomas is saying, transformation into modernity, an increasing complexity for the process of identification, very important, for showing the worth of an individual to a community, it is what makes you accountable. So far this theory does not include or explain motivation, at least not directly).

So a shift in learning theory, what is the DNA of cultural learning theory, it is the relationship of the agent to the community. If we then project it into a relationship it is a modulation of identification. We go through the world and negotiate meaning, see if we identify with a field. For EWT he moved away from AI.
IMPORTANCE; CENTRAL importance of identity, of the place of what is working out what is meaning for a person. Modernity has shifted the meaning from the community, in some way. Question: Where is the burden of identity today?
Challenge of becoming a successful person in the 21st century, all successful people invest their identity in what they do. They struggle with the problem of being engaged. Learning is not a matter of compliance.

Important: People who are good at complying are not good contributors. Maybe in the Industrial Revolution, “but not in the world today” We need to learn to balance these tensions of identity.
This is something like learning citizenship. How can that identity be useful in creating new learning experience spaces?
He leaves us with this question, are you a learning citizen? If the 21st century is the century of identity, then identity is your most profound pedagogical resource.

(Sorry I will proofread this and add photos later).

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