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Circle and lines: Complexities of learning in community

Sara Schupack, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Following is a study that explores learning in community in a fully-integrated, team taught course at a community college in New England. These classes, Learning Communities (LCs) represent rich opportunities for exploring and practicing democratic education. From a theoretical grounding in social learning theories and an exploration into learning and community as active, ongoing phenomena, I present narrative, relational research as enactment. Data from field notes, interviews, focus groups and researcher reflections inform findings and analysis. I represent this as an experience parallel to — not claiming either to mirror or replace — the experiences of the other participants. In these findings, I identify a duality of circles and lines, with circles representing open inquiry, community, collaboration, and democratic discourse. Lines represent reification, hierarchical and binary thinking, and the threat of positivism. Long hours, intense interactions, openness to collaboration, flexible pedagogy, and emerging curriculum all make for complicated relationships that allow for questions, confusions and tensions around what it means to know, who gets to decide, and what are the parameters and epistemologies of academic disciplines. I hope, through this text, to report, celebrate, and participate in these conversations.

Subject Area

Community college education|Instructional Design

Recommended Citation

Schupack, Sara, "Circle and lines: Complexities of learning in community" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3556286.