SharedThinking & Co-production in Education

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The concept of coproduction is becoming increasingly popular in health and social services. It is seen as a significant step beyond participation and a move towards partnership. We explore the concept in a higher education context. Can coproduction be seen as a useful organising concept for thinking about student learning and teaching? If so, then how can it be designed and delivered?

Coproduction originated with Elinor Ostrom in the 1970's. The concept describes the relationship between service users and service providers. Each is said to hold expertise in their own experience. Each has something to contribute to the way the service might be organised and improved. Both are stakeholders along with others.

A useful overview of coproduction is available here http://personcentredcare.health.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/what_is_co-production.pdf

In educational terms, the same principles might be applied. That is, students can move beyond participation and become genuinely involved in their learning. We often talk about cooperative learning and collaborative learning but are these terms adequate to describe a fundamental change in the way learning, research and teaching might be reorganised?

Student-Generated Induction is one application of the SharedThinking approach. It is centred upon the idea of students as experts in their experience. As a technique, students are supported to share with each others their concerns and interests. It combines socialisation and context-related information (including subject-related information).

We conceptualise the SharedThinking approach as a pedagogy of coproduction in Education. In this respect, we look beyond notions of collective learning, participatory learning, learning as production. These are all important and related concepts. However, they are inadequate to explain and explore the relationship between the provider/facilitator and the learner(s).

It is in the very situated nature of knowledge, within that relationship, that we believe constitutes education as a form of coproduction. Equally, coproduction in education is conceptualised as going beyond the collective arena. It extends to the learning within and between different groups, different institutions, different collectives.

This framework may extend thinking, research and practice. Ho at the University of Hong kong, has proposed a shift from individual methodology towards methodological relationalism. In other words, the move away from the individual as the focus of learning and teaching. 

Of course, we have concepts already helping us beyond the individual. Wenger's concept of Communities of Practice is a popular example. However, sociocultural conceptions of learning are often articulated in the relationship between the individual and the community.

Nothing wrong with that but what about the collective level and the relationships within and between collectives? This is distinct from micro to macro levels and it places the emphasis upon the meaning 'coproduced' in the collective. What about the shared thinking and shared understandings coproduced by and at the collective level. These ideas go beyond the individual - community dialectic.

Relationalism asks what is the meaning as a form of shared understanding? It recognises that individuals may place a particular emphasis within those shared views. It acknowledges the changing nature of knowledge even at the collective level. There is value in the situated meaning which has been co-constructed or coproduced. It can function as a guide and a resource for 'learning together.' 

The concept of coproduction respects the diversity of participants involved in learning. There is no doubt that learning as production and students as producers is useful. It alludes to the changed role/idea of learners as active and generative in their approach to learning. Nonetheless, it does seem to displace or marginalise the role of the academic and their knowledge.

Coproduction respects academics, support professionals and learners as equals. Equality means little if it doesn't respect both staff and students and their involvement in learning. Coproduction in education conceptualises them as 'working together' (Ostman etc) or 'learning together.'

This extends beyond collaborative and cooperation. It is one thing to interact with each other. It is another to generate and utilise knowledge together as the focus of pedagogy. SharedThinking is a practice which facilitates the process of co-inquiry within the coproductive educational practice. 

SharedThinking operationalises this at multiple levels. It includes the organisational (and beyond) with the cohort and the individual participant. It also acknowledges the context-sensitivity of knowledge at the collective and individual and situational levels. Collective learning risks being construed as a static product. SharedThinking within the framework of coproduction acknowledges the fluidity of knowledge and meaning at all levels and across time.

Coproduction and SharedThinking are seen as a process and a product within the new pedagogical framework. There is an interaction which gives rise to coproduction in learning. These interactions give rise to situated meaning. Such outcomes construct public resources. That is, they generate knowledge for participants. They also create public knowledge which may be accessed by those interested or involved. This is a wider conception of public education.

Over the coming months, we will be publishing more on the relationship between Coproduction in Education and the SharedThinking practice. This will include theoretical frameworks which see beyond Communities of Practice to represent and develop the collective and relational level of learning. It will also provide opportunities to extend thinking about research within the framework of Coproduction in Education as represented in the SharedThinking approach.

So what is SharedThinking? It is a pedagogy based on groups and social group membership. It is group work which adopts technology to support the work of the group both in the classroom, beyond the classroom and online. For those interested in knowing and experiencing more they are welcome to attend our latest workshop (or arrange a bespoke event) which is July 5th at Royal York Hotel. See  http://bit.ly/1OemOsc for more.