The argument developed by Lave & Wenger (1991) is that learning is an aspect of changing participation in changing "communities of practice" everywhere; they view "learning" as social practice, and the social practice of learning as the fundamental social phenomenon in relation with which practices of teaching are constituted.
Martin Packer wanted to know what is a theory of learning. He proposed a theory of learning consists of three kinds of stipulations: a telos for the changes implied in notions of learning; the basic relation assumed to exist between subject and social world; and mechanisms by which learning is supposed to take place.
- Telos: that is, a direction of movement or change or learning (not the same as goal directed activity),
- Subject-world relation: a general specification of relations between subjects and the social world (not necessarily to be construed as learners and things to-be-learned),
- Learning mechanisms: ways by which learning comes about.
Rather than particular tools and techniques for learning as such, there are ways of becoming a participant, ways of participating, and ways in which participants and practices change.
Learning, taken here to be first and principally the identity-making life projects of participants in communities of practice.
Teaching, by this analysis, is a cross-context, facilitative effort to make high quality educational resources truly available for communities of learners.
It is difficult to find research on learning that focuses on great learners learning, but it rarely focuses on great teachers teaching either. (p158) [great line!]
Lave proposes that we should address questions about teaching through research focused on learners learning
If we presume that teaching has some impact on learners, then such research would include the effects of teaching on teachers as learners as well.
Given teaching work as defined here, teachers need to know about the powerful identity-changing communities of practice of their students, which define the conditions of their work.
In what central ways do bodies, trajectories, timetables, daily practices, and changing careers create registers of identity-changing activity among learners in American schools? Lave: racialization, and the production of social class divisions and unequal gendered identities
School teaching is a special kind of learning practice that must become part of the identity-changing communities of children's practices if it is to have a relationship with their learning.
For educational researchers whose major identity is in research on schools, the approach taken here recommends research to establish the locations in which and the processes by which the most potent identity-constituting learning conjunctures occur.
For researchers whose major identity is in research on the teaching of high culture in school settings. the key questions revolve around how to make pedagogic situations (organized to produce deeper scholastic understanding) effectively available to the school-specific, identity-changing participation of kids together in their own lives.
Those most concerned with relations between learning and teaching must untangle the confusions that mistakenly desubjectify learners' and teachers' positions, stakes, reasons, and ways of participating, and then inquire anew about those relations.