Learning Community


Group support of individual learning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … cultural practices (that are exhibited by practitioners belonging to various communities)
  • Knowing is … appropriate engagements
  • Learner is … a participant in a community
  • Learning is … participation in learning communities
  • Teaching is … structuring and support of learning communities




A Learning Community is a group of learners with sufficiently compatible interests, attitudes, and circumstances to support and influence one another in the pursuit of a shared goal or compatible goals – typically an advanced credential. The Learning Community model began to appear in North American institutions of higher education in the 1980s, and it is currently prominent across Europe and North America, especially among online and distance-learning programs.


Advocates of Learning Communities assert that the model might encourage students to stay in school longer, amplify curricular coherence, support collaborative knowledge construction, and contribute to more current and contextually relevant learning. Evidence based on participants’ subjective experiences indicates that such claims are appropriate. More objective research into achievement gains is scant and less compelling.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

Learning Community is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Learning Community is more a “pedagogical design” than a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Learning Community is typically associated with scientific theories of learning, more commonly ones in the Socio-Cultural Theory family. However, perhaps just as commonly, the phrase “learning community” is invoked as a reference to an organizational or pedagogical strategy, independent of any reference to contemporary learning theories.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Learning Community” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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