Revisiting learning communities: innovations in theory and practice

Yotam Hod, Katerine Bielaczyc, Dani Ben-Zvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on learning communities has been largely influenced by the sociocultural turn in educational scholarship approximately three decades ago. Here, we present a wider history of research and practice on learning communities as we revisit this highly generative and central topic in the learning sciences. Using this to frame our perspective, we examine several central themes in learning communities by comparing and contrasting four cutting-edge conceptions and innovations. We conclude by asking and providing preliminary answers to three key questions in scholarship on learning communities: (1) Where are the learning and instructional sciences going? (2) Where is education going? (3) Where is the world going? Altogether, this paper can serve as an orientation to the topic of learning communities as research and practice moves forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-506
Number of pages18
JournalInstructional Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
There are numerous examples of exciting research suggesting that the spatial turn is in the works. The work of Erstad and Sefton-Green (2013) and the Stanford Life Center (Banks et  al. 2007) examine the way people’s identities are continuously coordinated between the formal and informal, on-and offline communities they participate in. Research as part of the Learning in a Networked Society (LINKS) center has examined insights on the way learning that occurs within designed technology-enhanced environments can be applied to ambient environments, and vice versa (Kali et al. 2015). The Scratch environment allows users to bring in their own interests as they create, share, and re-mix others’ block-based computer programs in an online community that includes millions of kids around the world (Resnick et al. 2009). Clegg et al. (2017) explore how wearable digital devices can disrupt traditional setups and rules around how spaces are used, in what has recently been conceptualized as hybrid spaces and third places that intertwine scientizing with learners’ everyday lives, cultures, and values. Roschelle et al. (2017) report on the relatively new research field of cyberlearning, which has been awarded 279 United States National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awards by Summer 2017. One of the main principles of this exciting area is that learners “move across boundaries in space and time and interact with a wide variety of people and places. While some cyberlearning research concentrates on the individual learner, much of the research investigates a community of learners” (p. 8). In recent years, new online tools have been developed to allow classroom knowledge building communities to look across the databases of other communities, both past and present, to compare knowledge around different inquiry threads (Zhang et  al. 2018). All of these examples show the remarkable ways in which technology has changed the learning dynamics of space and time.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Nature B.V.


  • History
  • Humanistic
  • Learning communities
  • Learning sciences
  • Sociocultural
  • Sociopolitical
  • Spatial turn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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