Thought Leadership

How Technology Can Contribute to a Positive Social Impact
October 11, 2018
Why We Use Micro-Learning to Build Communities
October 29, 2018

Social Learning in Motion

Social learning is a big part of informal learning. Peer pressure is a strong force, and though it might appear a lot within negative contexts, it could also drive positive interactions, especially when it comes to learning.

Keen et al. [1] have defined social learning as “the collective action and reflection that takes place amongst both individuals and groups when they work to improve the management of the interrelationships between social and ecological systems”.

While it’s a matter of preference whether people learn better in a group setting or one-on-one with the instructor, the importance of acquiring knowledge through asking specific questions cannot be emphasized enough.

With the increasing number of learners recognizing that theoretical learning is not enough, the basis of Kuza’s unique methodology is for the AE mentor to go to the midst of farmers in the evening and teach them content relevant to their hard labor in the morning. Challenges of farming practices come up during the conversations and the trainer is able to direct the relevant answers to the farmers.

This goes against the usual linear model of knowledge acquisition that is commonly seen within universities and schools where learners acquire theoretical knowledge and wait until they graduate before they discover they wouldn’t be using 80 % of it in real life. However, this methodology does go in line with Kolb’s learning cycle that describes how experience is translated into actionable ideas, through the behaviors of experiencing, reflecting, conceptualizing and experimenting as can be seen in the Figure below [2].

While Step 1 is something farmers encounter a lot, they struggle a lot with Steps 2 through 4, which is why it is the responsibility of the AE mentor to handhold them and guide them through the process.

Also, another aspect of social learning that might be dismissed a lot is how it’s not always easy for learners within a single setting to raise their hand and ask a question in front of others, because they might be afraid of being judged. That’s why, as part of our learning program at Kuza, we integrated micro-mentoring within the digital learning platform. Through this channel, learners are able to send their questions into the platform, and the next time the system connects to the internet, the question is sent to a mentor who then replies. This is done with anonymity thus engaging even the shyest among learners.

According to Roger Start[3], there are several relationships that exist within the context of learning such as dependency and interdependence. Within our context, dependency is where the AE structures up the learning process for the farmer. Interdependence is where the farmers seek out others who are on the same wavelength and engage in discussions about common challenges they face in the farm.

It is known that one person alone cannot solve highly complex and interdisciplinary problem, especially in disadvantaged areas.

In order to promote progress, it’s important to develop systems thinking skills within a group, as well as he development of interpersonal skills and attitudinal changes associated with cooperation and solidarity within this learning approach, demanding multi-stakeholder engagement and changing mindsets[4].

The beauty of this is its flexibility within any type of context-based learning, and so it can be applied to community health workers as well as refugees.

References

[1] Keen M., Brown V.A., Dyball R. (2005), Social learning in environment management: towards a sustainable future. Earthscan, London

[2] Kolb, D. A., & Fry, R. E. (1974). Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. MIT Alfred P. Sloan School of Management.

[3] Stuart R., Social learning, Management Decision , Volume 24 (6): 4 — Jun 1, 1986

[4] Jacobi P., Toledo R., Grandisoli E., Education, sustainability and social learning, Brazilian Journal of Science and Technology, Volume 3 (1) — Mar 7, 2016