Change (and learning)

Education is fundamentally about change—both in terms of tiny incremental changes in students’ understanding, and sometimes even huge shifts in their self-concept and worldview. As Leo Buscaglia points out,

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Biggs (2003) affirms this view, arguing that:

“As we learn, our concepts of phenomena change, and we see the world differently. The acquisition of information itself does not bring about such change, but the way we structure that information and think with it does.

Thus, education is about conceptual change, not just the acquisition of information. (p. 13).”

American psychologist Carl Rogers in his book Freedom to Learn (1983) argues that education must be predicated on an understanding that knowledge in constantly in a state of transition, stating:

“We are, in my view, faced with an entirely new situation in education where the goal of education, if we are to survive, is the facilitation of change and learning. The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to adapt and change; the man who has realized that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security. Changingness, reliance on process rather than upon static knowledge, is the only thing that makes any sense as a goal for education in the modern world (p.104).”

But of course, change can be confronting for students. As Rogers (1969) outlines in his list of principles of learning:

“Learning which involves a change in self-organization in the perception of oneself is threatening and tends to be resisted.”

However, the student's resilience and ability to adapt to shifting and evolving states of knowledge is cruical. As Rogers proposes in the last of his ten principles:

“The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and to incorporate into oneself the process of change.”

Further Reading

Rogers, C. R. (1983). Freedom to Learn for the 80s. Columbus, OH Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company.


Communities of practice

Communities of practice involves networks of people all motivated by a common interest, or professional concern.

Originally proposed by Lave and Wenger in the early 90s, communities of practice acknowledges that learning is always situated within social contexts. As Wenger-Trayner (2015) explain:

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

Furthermore, they explain:

“Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.”

Further Reading

Wenger-Trayner E & Wenger-Trayner B, 2015, Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/ [26 August 2018]


Constructive Alignment

Constructive alignment is a theory of educational design that seeks to ensure that the intended learning outcomes, learning activities, assessments and feedback all work together to enhance the effectiveness of the learners’ attainment of knowledge and skills.


Proposed by Biggs (2003), constructive alignment has two dimensions. The constructive dimension refers to how students draw meaning from the learning activities they engage in. “Meaning is not something imparted or transmitted from teacher to learner,” Biggs explains, “but is something learners have to create for themselves.”

Further Reading

Biggs, JB 2011, Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does, 2nd edn, McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead (UK).