Building Critical Learning Communities

Reflection on Topic 3: Learning in Communities

Joanne Kuai

The benefits of engaged pedagogy and learning in communities have been widely acknowledged, as human beings is a social person in a social world, and in relation to participation, the social and the individual constitutes each other (hooks, 2010; Wenger, 2010). In building a learning community, many aspects need to be taken into consideration, such as inclusivity, classroom ethics, and group dynamics in different stages of group development (Tuckman, 1965).

When I first started my postgraduate program as a master’s student in Denmark, the sheer amount of group work was overwhelming. In discussing this with locals, I was informed that group work is part of the culture in education. While it took me some time to get used to it, I came to appreciate group work for the opportunities to collaborate with people with different cultural backgrounds, expertise, and working habits. Learning, hence, does not solely come from books and lectures, but also from the process of collaborating, learning from fellow participants, and navigating through group dynamics, which is what we need to deal with in real-world scenarios. Drawing from my own experience as a student, my experiences as a teacher, and discussions with fellow educators, I find the 2*2 group formation a great technique and would like to implement it in my future teaching. A student can first pair up with someone they are familiar with and more comfortable working with and be mixed with another pair to add to challenges and also the novelty aspect of group work. Such as measure has been found to lead to more positive attitudes from the students and encourage learning (Mahenthiran & Rouse, 2000).

In addition, I find special attention to inclusivity to be crucial to setting the tone for the learning community to be built. Norm-critical pedagogy offers an important toolbox for addressing different forms of oppression and articulating ways to work against it, be it racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, or other forms of oppression (Bromseth & Sörensdotter, 2014; Kumashiro, 2000). Adopting the practices of pronoun rounds, revising the syllabus to include accessibility and accommodation needs, and following the checklist for decolonizing the syllabus can be some of the first steps to establishing shared values and practices among participants and creating an inclusive atmosphere where everyone can feel welcomed and comfortable with sharing. This requires the teacher to constantly reflect on one’s positionality, actively change the curriculum, and rethink the foundations of our society, including the educational structures, as learning is the prosecution of social structure and of identity (Wenger, 2010; Wysong, 2020). Only when we’re attentive to such processes can we build learning communities that sustain pedagogical change.



Bromseth, J., & Sörensdotter, R. (2014). Norm-critical pedagogy. Gender Studies Education and Pedagogy, 24, 24–32.

hooks,  bell. (2010). Teaching critical thinking: Practical wisdom. Routledge.

Kumashiro, K. K. (2000). Toward a Theory of Anti-Oppressive Education. Review of Educational Research, 70(1), 25–53.

Mahenthiran, S., & Rouse, P. J. (2000). The impact of group selection on student performance and satisfaction. International Journal of Educational Management, 14(6), 255–265.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384.

Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: The career of a concept. Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice, 3, 179–198.

Wysong, L. (2020, December 6). WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO “DECOLONIZE” THE CURRICULUM? Hindsights.





Dear Joanne, thank you for this reflection! To me, all your points addressed regarding inclusivity in the last paragraph are important and when all of them would be considered – we would have a great learning space for all! Thank you for making me aware of all those aspects – I think I need to do a lot more reflection when teaching but when keeping most of these aspects in mind I might be on the right path already. Self-reflection is crucial for improving and I think your post shows that there are good and easy-to-implement examples that everyone could start with.
I believe that only when all members of a learning community have the same opportunuties, a collaborative work can be most efficient. Also, I think that technologies can help a lot regarding inclusivity! 🙂 Thanks a lot, Joanne! I appreciate you being in my group!

Joanne Kuai says:

And I appreciate you, Annika! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom and always bring good energy to the group! Come visit next time you’re in the country. Wahaha!

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