Knowledge construction in the learning community
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China is in the process of implementing a learning society through the establishment of learning cities, learning organizations, and learning communities. Even though the structure of the learning community system is in place, practitioners have found it hard to recruit learners when learners’ needs were neglected. The traditional knowledge transmission model where the learners passively accept knowledge from the “authorized” instructor was criticized for not taking into account learners’ experiences and the social and cultural context of the knowledge (Buffington, 2003). Due to sparse research addressing knowledge construction within a geographical learning community, the purpose of this study was to understand how knowledge is constructed in the Shanghai Zhabei Learning Community in China. This embedded case study employed the constant comparative method to analyze data collected from interviews, observations and document analysis. The community for the case was one of the 18 districts in Shanghai. Data analysis revealed five patterns of knowledge construction and the factors shaping knowledge construction. Specifically, the five patterns of knowledge construction are: radiation, circulation, simulation, socialization, and contextualization. Factors that shape knowledge construction include: the socio-cultural factors of the political bureaucracy, economic reform, and traditional Chinese values of hierarchy and moderation; factors specific to the learning community also shaped knowledge construction. Those factors are government support, learning embedded in community development, creation of a harmonious learning environment, comprehensive learning networks, and lineal and non-lineal learning structures. Four conclusions have been reached. First, knowledge construction is a socially embedded collective learning process. Second, tools such as cultural products and discourses promote knowledge construction. Third, multi-layer networks and learning structures shape knowledge construction in the learning community. Fourth, the hierarchical social system, conservative social values, and economic reforms shape knowledge construction. Implications for practitioners and policy makers are discussed and suggestions are offered for future research.
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