Reading David’s ‘CAE Lifesavers’ post and reflecting on our previous discussion around his idea of an online social network where CAE students can support each other, and whilst creating a resource for future learners, it seems that this could be an example of ‘action learning’. According to Ian McGill and Liz Beaty (1995), the educational process of action learning is where students ‘learn from each other by working on real problems and reflecting on their own experiences’, within a ‘group of people (called a set)…for a concentrated period of time’ (1995: 17), and the set is ‘focussed on the issues of each individual’ (1995:18).
Students within the CAE Lifesavers network, it could be argued, do have an overarching real world problem (how to successfully pass Cambridge CAE exams), and within this certainly lies a multitude of challenges. A social network can act as a communicative framework for an ‘action learning set’, and as David pointed, out according to Wenger, White and Smith (2009), this technology also allows it to operate as a community of practice, without the constraints of member size, time or geography. Additionally, it is easy to forget that learning does not take place within the classroom or within class time only. In a recent online article Jeremy Harmer (2010) states that ‘students take time to process items, and for each learner there is a degree of divergence in this sense’. Given this, an online resource that can be contributed to autonomously, and where problems may be discussed informally in an asynchronous manner after lessons have finished upon further study and reflection; seems like an effective way to work considering the varying times when learners understand and consolidate new learning. additionally, in the case of CAE students who have arrived in the UK, there are many other areas that can benefit from peer support, such as dealing with cultural differences and simply ‘getting things done’ in a foreign country, all of which can be addressed within an online action learning set.
Harmer, J. (2010) No Dogma for EFL – away from a pedagogy of essential bareness Available from: http://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/ [Accessed 06 May 2012].
McGill, I. and L. Beaty (1995) Action Learning: A Practitioner’s Guide. London:Routledge Falmer
Wenger, E., White, N., and Smith, J D. (2009). Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities. Portland: CPsquare