at Findhorn create and participate in their own cooperative
Learning Community. In the shorter courses, the group
will become a learning community seemingly almost
by chance, but in the longer courses we will consciously
create it together. It is our experience that learning
in such a context is more empowering, relevant and
enjoyable than normal classroom learning, and that
both the sense of achievement and the actual level
of learning is often higher.
A learning community is a group that has a shared
learning goal. That may sound easy, but it is actually
hard work. Everyone comes to the College for a different
reason. They are at different stages in their lives,
and come from a variety of backgrounds. What participants
have in common is that they have all chosen a holistic
education programme now. If everyone puts effort into
the learning that happens, for themselves and for
one another, this enhances the quality of the learning
in the courses and in our lives beyond.
So what is a Learning Community? Our aim is to create
a learning environment in which:
• Students and faculty (or participants and
facilitators as we prefer to call them) learn together
from each other by sharing knowledge, discoveries
• Differences of rank, power and authority
in the group are minimised whilst acknowledging
differences in personality, life experience and
• Cooperative inquiry, collaboration and collective
learning are encouraged.
• Particularly in the longer courses, group
members (both participants and facilitators) are
encouraged to create their own learning contracts
with personal goals and achievement criteria which
emphasise self-improvement rather than competition
• Group members are encouraged to take responsibility
for their own learning outcomes.
• Class content is flexible and negotiable
to meet group needs and interests within the context
of the established curriculum.
• Different learning styles (eg visual, kinaesthetic,
and aural) are respected and catered for as far
• Differences of opinion and relationship
issues within the group lead to constructive inquiry,
dialogue and new understandings rather than conflict.
• An atmosphere of trust, openness and confidence
is developed in which it is safe for group members
to express any thoughts or feelings without risk
of ridicule or judgement.
• Clear ‘contracts’ are negotiated
between group members about the way the group works
• Group members are prepared to give and receive
feedback on their behaviour and performance provided
it is supportive and constructive, aimed at enhancing
each other’s learning.
• Learning is fun, challenging, motivated,
self-directed and has the quality of open-ended
exploration of any ideas, feeling, beliefs or values.
The ability to work together creating a living learning
community is part of our expectation for success.
By helping each other, working collaboratively, sharing
excitement about ideas and events, and actively seeking
experiences we all contribute to each other’s
education. We want each member of the group to see
himself or herself as an active part of a greater
whole and act accordingly.
This dedication to collective as well as personal
learning is truly an art. It is not always easy to
adjust from the competitive norm of standard education
to this cooperative and collaborative model. We each
need to be aware of, and work with, our tendencies
toward competition and comparison that compromise
the learning process. Despite the hard work, learning
in community is an inspiring and rewarding experience.
To quote from recent participants:
flexibility of the teachers and the safe classroom
environment really worked well for me.'
'My learning needs were met more than I ever could
have hoped for by the learning community. I would
choose to be involved with a learning community again
in a heartbeat!'
'I really liked feeling on an equal level with
every person in the group including the tutors. I
liked that classes were a dialogue between all of
us rather than a monologue by the teacher or a discussion
where students feed directly back to the teacher.
We all talked to and learned from each other.'