Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Collaborative structures that the Lord has given us.

There are probably a few collaborative levels in a family. As far as immediate families I see three groups that interact distinctly enough, in certain contexts, to merit being different structures or at least substructures: 1) the entire family, 2) parents, 3) children. As far as the family as a collaborative structure I'll I really have to go off of is my own experience. There were 8 of us, 6 children, my mom, and dad. Rarely did all the kids make up their own collaborative structure because of the age spread and the different interests and circumstances but often a group of about 3 maybe 4 kids would band together and collaborate. Likewise, the parents were the heart of the collaborative structure. They would pull different or all of the kids into the "collaborative group" as needed. By design I think the "experts" in the family or those who have more experience learn just as much as the novices though the novices usually don't see it that way.

Interactions between collaborative structures:
As I think about family as a collaborative structure it seems that a very important factor is interaction between one collaborative group and another. For example, the immediate family is one structure and then you have extended family. How those two structures interact can define each other. For example, if there is unity between the two when they come together the immediate family almost feels like a subset of the extended. If there is no unity, need for each other, or ties then they become distinct groups. Also, it gets really hard to feel like the entire extended family is a collaborative structure just because of the size, much like a large class compared to a group from that class that works together.

Outside of the family I think the Lord has given us many other collaborative structures: quorums, classes, neighbors, and friends make up just a few. As I grew up I had a handful of close friends, they were from both quorums and school classes. They had a large influence on my life and I think the Lord knew that I needed those people who really were, in many ways, a collaborative structure. There were about 5 of us most of the time and because of that collaborative structure I learned things and participated in many things that I would not have otherwise. We were different enough to learn from each other yet we had mostly similar interests. Those with more aptitude and experience in a specific interest pulled the rest of the group into those areas that they maybe would not have seen or chosen to be involved in individually. Those interactions also allowed us to build faith in the principle that we are able to "act for [our]selves and not to be acted upon" in such a way that we can "do much good" (2 Ne 2:26, 2 Ne 3:24) and achieve things that were difficult.

In all cases these collaborative structures can potentially provide negative experiences that perhaps hinder faith and learning. Perhaps understanding among group members, a unity of purpose, a willingness to adapt and change, shared positive experiences and other similar factors help avoid a negative collaborative structure.

There is no way to eliminate individual structure in life. The Lord has built it in. Rich experiences come as we learn to be "with ourselves." I also see activities such as personal scripture study, personal hobbies and sitting down just to think alone as individual structure. It seems that the quest of improvement and ultimately salvation is a rich interaction between the key life components of individual structure and collaborative structure, particularly in the family.


Charles Graham said...

Shawn - thanks for the insight here. I think you are right that there are lots of backup structures for us so that we are not necessarily dependent on just one. Some of the plan behind that might also be that we learn different things and are exposed to different experiences as we interact with a wide range of individuals.

Do you think that there is more or less need for collaborative structures at different times or ages in life? or just different roles within those structures?

MikeGriffiths said...

I also appreciate the insight.

In thinking about my own experience, I can't think of much collaborative learning in my family unit growing up.

However, in my own family, family counsels, scripture study, meal time discussions, even prayers have been guided collaborative learning.

I have learned many things from church classes, lesson discussions, working in presidencies, home teaching, and all the rest, so for sure, church is designed to give us collaborative learning experiences and they are very effective in my view.

Some of these structures involve guidance from higher level experts, some are peer groups, some are very small, some are large. So it seems likes all sizes and varieties have their place.

Which leads me to my conclusion that a good learning environment allows content and skills to be experienced from many different angles. In my opinion, this equates to a variety of learning types and assessment types.

Shawn said...

Mike thanks for the comments. I agree with your conclusion and hadn't really thought about it that way. Charles I think that more than having less or more of collaborative structures that it is more important that those structures be different. As you put it, they need to play different roles. Maybe even beyond playing different roles they need to be a different kinds of collaboration and different structures to fill the needs of different times in life. When I was younger I was part of a family but my role was so different that the collaborative structures outside of my family were very key to my life and helped me a lot. As I have gotten older those structures external to my family have become less important similar to what Mike said in his comment. Now that I think about it having been on both ends of the stick I could see that if your family is the most important structure you have yet members of that family see external collaborative structures as being equally, or heaven forbid, more important than the family structure there may be some tension. Interesting. I'll have to think about this one more.

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