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Approaches to learning support – sooper v plod

George Clark, Oct 2001 + note

The only constant thing is change. As the world changes so must the attitudes, skills and knowledge (ASK) of the people who inhabit it: and there is no single, one-size-fits-all method for changing the ASK of people.

The ‘best’ learning method depends on -

the age, experience and capacities of the ‘learner’

New born babies have different learning needs and capabilities from old age pensioners - and the pattern changes on the road from cradle to grave. These days there is much talk of learning how to learn and of lifelong learning. Your brain is your birthright. If you allow other people to do your thinking for you then you must accept the consequences.

the tasks that have to be managed

There are not usually too many correct ways to use man-made machines (eg tractor or computer). It is probably best to read the instruction manual or go on a training course and therefore use the machine in the correct way.
Social organisations are man-made but there is much scope for interpreting how they are set up and how they make decisions (eg political parties, the legal system, the Forestry Commission)
Mother nature has her own ‘laws’ – we break them at our peril. Experts on ‘Green’ thinking have many different ideas about what these laws are (eg about pesticides, waste management)
Religions are social organisations but some people give them a special place as the root of value systems and thus of motivation, morality and commandments (eg love your neighbour as yourself, an eye for an eye, be still and know)

Approaches to learning support for Community Economic Development (CED)

CED organisations are a relatively new kind of social organisation in the UK*. There are no ‘experts’ in this field. It requires thinking from the bottom up with its grassroots still attached. What options are there for providing learning support?

Open discussion punctuated by occasional one-page summary sheets of key facts and ideas is preferable to a thick textbook where the complete story line is pre-scripted and the task of the participants is to passively ‘learn the truth’.

The Approach

The Message

The scattering of one-pagers encouraging reflection (SOOPER) approach promotes participation in the social construction of a locally relevant pattern of understanding. "There are many so-called ‘experts’ with many different theories. Sometimes they can be helpful but it is up to us - everyday experts - to mix and match and/or be totally original in figuring out how best to manage our situation."
The prewritten, lengthy, organised dissertation (PLOD) [or totally explained and extremely tedious (TEXT)] approach tends to force the same idealised blueprint on every situation. "You have the bodies of adults but the brains of children so sit down, shut up, and learn what we clever and powerful people have already decided".

NOTE: from Graham Boyd

Not sure that I would 100 percent agree that CED is wholly new to folks. Early Co-operatives, mutual aid and municipal mutualism have many similarities 

I recently  read a book on one Alexander Campbell a social missionary who promoted the thinking of Robert Owen (New Lanark) and was a founder member of the Glasgow Co-operative Association (1850).  For instance:

" In January 1821 a group of London journeymen printers, led by the Scotsman George Mudie, formed the Co-operative and Economical Society to establish a village of unity and mutual co-operation combining agriculture, manufacture and trade. The idea was to devise a scheme for a centre for about 250 families. Mudie also published the Economist in 1821 and 1822 to publicise Owenite ideas. Neither enterprise survived very long, but others followed. The seeds of an Owenite Movement had been laid and, according to George Jacob Holyoake, in the decade of the 1820's co-operation and communities were regarded by the thinking classes as a religion of industry."

Source: Alexander Campbell and the Search for Socialism, W.Hamish Fraser, Holyoake Books, Manchester, 1996, p17

In my thinking unless CED practitioners re-connect with their mutual aid and co-operative roots they are more than likely to espouse managerial approaches and New Labour cant. Those old social missionaries were unconstrained by political parties, managerial fashion or government funding.





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