Learning environments generally evolve first by building Agency within learners and Responsiveness to their needs, then using that foundation to improve Connectivity to more relevant people. There's an inter-dependency between Responsiveness, Agency, and Connectivity.
The ARC shows how Peer Learning environments tend to develop through 3 stages:
- Starters - Where learners are passive, or generally unable to set their own direction, learning is slow and doesn't translate into application. To move to an active level of engagement, the focus needs to be on initiating their agency, then responding to them as they start to self-direct.
- Accelerators - Once learners become more self-directing, they can build on their agency. Environments that give them deeper diagnostics and more relevant connections accelerate their progress.
- Forerunners - The final step is instant access to the most relevant experience based on the key challenges in their projects. This allows learners to leap over months or even years of challenges they'd otherwise face, and attracts a community of forerunners.
On the ARC model, peer learning environments improve outwards first, then up. If your evaluation of a learning environment reveals gaps, or a top-heavy ARC, then the appropriate foundation hasn't been set to enable learners.
For example, running a massive conference doesn't help people forge great relationships if they have no good way to share their interests, find each other and meet in comfortable places. Bringing in a world-renown expert to lecture doesn't help if people believe their approach isn't right for the local context.
With this understanding, the ARC should give you a way to evaluate your own program, spot weaknesses and disconnects.
Picking your next step
Once you have an idea of what specific characteristic you want to improve, there are usually some simple additions to choose from to make that happen.
A lot more becomes possible when learners are motivated and self-directed, but how do we help them get there? It's a combination of initiating their agency, inspiring them to take a bit of control, then bit by bit, starting to respond to their control.
When learners are active, self-directed and know what they want, the program can get out of the way, and shift to a supporting role. Accelerating Agency Peer advisory Kelly Thompson's writing group carried her from her novice days to her bestseller: > We started out as a group of five, four women and one man, all with a variety of backgrounds and writing interests, as well as some variation in experience.
Brokering individual connections between learners and experts is hard work, involving trial and error, and speculative exploration. The more a self-directed learner progresses, the more complex and specific their challenges. At the same time, these people are often experts to others, and learning from them is attractive to others.