I’m currently working through the MOOC Exploring Social Learning and and using my blog as a space to work out loud and reflect on our summary activities for the next couple of weeks. This weeks topic was on Social Learning Theories.

Question of the week: To what extent do you think theory should inform our practice in social learning?

My rambling thoughts:  I am a believer in theory.  I believe it provides a foundation for knowledge and helps one make sense of the world around us.  I know our world and it’s theories are changing at a rapid pace, however there is still value to be found within them because of how they challenge or validate our thinking. As Sam Burrough so eloquently pointed out in one of our discussions:

“How can we tell if there is value in something without understanding it at least a little?”

I would also add – how do we know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been?

So yes, I believe theory should inform our practice in social learning. I will admit however, that theory can be hard to understand and may not be everyone’s cup of tea.   This is why we need translators to help distill down the information so that it is useful to the wider population.

Gina Chapman confirms this for me when she stated in the discussion that:

“Not all working within L&D are academics – me for one – and the conclusions are presented (in my opinion) as an academic paper . . . I am pleased that there are people who are willing to unpick and translate so a non-academic L&D practitioner can understand and sense-make.”

In summary: I would argue that if theory is so important in our practices (which I believe they are) academically minded folks, including myself, should do a better job of writing for the wider population to begin with.