Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Interdependence in Learning

I recently participated in my first #pkmchat on Interdependence for Independent Learners. I would like to extend sincere thanks to Bruno Winck for inviting me as a guest and for giving me an opportunity to share my views on interdependence in learning. There was much to learn from the participants who were enthused about the topic and shared deep passion for learning.

It was Bruno who came to this topic during a #lrnchat early last year. He enjoyed my blog post on 'From Dependence to Interdependence: The Changing Role of Learning Consultants' and we had an interesting side conversation via comments on my post. 
In my post, I talked about how I see myself moving from a trainer to a learning consultant who is leading her learners from dependence to interdependence. The post was directed towards the changing roles and responsibilities of L&D but it also called upon the changing role of learners. More and more learners now need L&D consultants to act as the seed for learning conversations through which they can connect with information and knowledge, other learners, their peers, and experts in their personal learning network. In that sense, I see dependence, independence and interdependence as stages of learner maturity. My personal goal as a learning consultant is to help learners move along their maturity continuum and help them define and follow their path from dependence to interdependence. 





In #pkmchat, we pondered about questions, such as:
  • Is interdependence in learning just a prescription or is it a reality of the world we live in? 
  • Can a self-directed learner become independent, autonomous and interdependent? Why and How? 
  • Which parts of the learning process can benefits from Interdependence? 
  • What are the positive aspects of Interdependence? 
  • Could Interdependence be negative? Why, How? Is it factual, a side effect or just a preconception? 


Through the chat, I was able to share some of my thoughts and views about interdependence and I am using this post to capture some of what I shared:

All learning is interdependent.
I personally feel that all learning is interdependent and it is the reality of the world we live in. Since knowledge is limitless, we cannot depend on one thing or one person to get access to knowledge. We create knowledge within and outside, individually and collectively. Interdependence enables this co-creation. I constantly depend on myself, others and the environment (conditions) for my learning. Since learning involves developing new meanings or new relations with knowledge, process or people, it cannot be an independent activity. Interdependence is key for me and it is not just about people. Yes, interdependence is about engaging with each other, but it is also about engaging with the self through reflection and by interacting with the environment and the conditions of learning. 

Interdependence is about equality. 
I believe that each learner is a teacher. As we mature as learners and as teachers, we become more open to this idea of give and take and are willing to be more interdependent. Also, content complexity and interdependence are directly proportional. To learn complex content, I crave and need engagement with others. I believe others have something that I can learn from. Interdependence brings everyone to the same table. 

Self-directed learning is more about autonomy and less about independence.
The term, self-directed learning, has been understood in different ways and is sometimes implied as something we do alone.  But learning is not that kind of activity even when it is self-directed. The way I think of self-directed learning is along the ideas of autonomy more than independence. Self direction and interdependence may seem odd together, but we can't self monitor without depending on the environment for feedback. Although some self-directed learning activities and tasks may be solitary, the learning process itself is interdependent on knowledge items, personal learning networks, peers, mentors, etc. 

The more self-directed we are, the more interdependent we become.
As I was researching this topic on interdependence, I came across an interesting model for distance education that talks about the degree of academic and relational support to provide to learners who are dependent versus interdependent. As discussed in the Providing Academic and Relational Support (PARS) modelas interdependent learners we need more relational support from peers and less academic support. So, my theory is that the more self-directed we are, the more interdependent we become and therefore, we need less academic structure to learn.

As a learning consultant, I am looking to encourage interdependence not only in independent self-directed learners but I am also working towards building opportunities for interdependence in all types of learners. 

I often think about how I can create the right set of conditions in which learners make themselves interdependent. But the question that I am exploring now is if too much interdependence ultimately makes us socially dependent. Is there something like too much interdependence. Thoughts?