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Cowabunga, It’s Community-Based Learning!

Throwback to the recent times you played a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) game — you picked your favorite Turtles, took to the streets of New York City, fought some Foot Clan members that stood in your way, defied an end-of-level boss, and moved on to the next stage. The best part is you did all that within a community — your family and friends. Together, you tried different techniques, played various roles, shared your thoughts, and progressed the game toward a common mission: defeating Shredder and bringing peace back to the city. That’s the epitome of community-based learning.



Going back to the roots 

Talk of social and collaborative learning concepts goes back further than our TMNT memories. Born in the early 1900s, social learning theory encouraged learning through observation and instruction. Around the same time, collaborative learning also came into the picture. It emphasized collaboration and finding solutions through exploring diverse knowledge, experiences, and perspectives.   

Over time, these two theories merged with community engagement to enrich the learning experience, and community learning came to life.  

Generally, community learning is a blended strategy that encourages learning from one another through consumption and observation, peer collaboration, and meaningful on-the-job practices. Using the human element, this approach creates a sense of belonging, resulting in better and longer retention.


Earning the 5 “pizzas” of community learning 

TNMT’s love for pizzas is undeniable. But what makes community learning a pizza-awarded experience?


  1. Social connectedness
    While embarking on the journey to a common goal — gaining knowledge, solving problems, or creating something new — learners engage in purposeful dialogues, which create mutual understanding and deep critical reflections. This social connectedness is essential to their well-being, especially in the quest for purpose at work. By building a learning culture around a shared mission, L&D can promote meaningful and long-lasting experiences.

  2. The “stickiness” of knowledge
    Peer interaction helps learners apply theories to real-life scenarios, appreciate different perspectives, and synthesize information to achieve mutual understanding and decisions. This process makes learning stick, strengthening and influencing decisions and future intentions.

  3. Supportive conditions
    Community learning is a safe place to fail. It offers ample opportunities to practice new skills and try innovative ideas. Additionally, collaboration allows learners to contribute to the group’s efforts and share the rewards while embracing their personal discovery.

  4. Collective creativity
    Learners who reflect and share thoughts in peer-to-peer learning communities will build on each other’s insights and leverage collective wisdom to generate even more innovative ideas. As these communities evolve together, they grow into “innovation hubs” that expand beyond a single learning program.

  5. A boost in engagement and adoption
    Thepizzas” of community learning don’t stop at one group of learners or internal employees — they’re for sharing. Once the learners are immersed in the experience, they become your learning ambassadors and champion the community learning strategy.


Exploring the community learning roles

Similar to the different role each Turtle plays in their group, learners take on various roles in community experiences. These roles promote efficient and thoughtful collaboration that leads to deep learning. 

As the most serious, strongest, and confident of the Turtles, Raphael takes on professional and technical roles, mirroring the knowledgeable specialists with deep expertise of an industry’s ins and outs. They provide facts and evidence to support the solutions. 

Donatello and Michelangelo play the problem-exploring and problem-solving roles. Using their brains, soft skills, and an awesome sense of humor, they step in to effectively help the team explore and problem solve.  

Leonardo — the idealized leader — takes over team management roles, supporting the group with a clear and thoughtful collaborative strategy, process, and aligned outcomes.  

Learners can move in and out of these roles depending on the problem, where they are in the process, and their judgment on the team’s current needs.  

As a blended strategy, community learning provides the benefits of self-exploration and the “pizzas” of collaboration. Once learners self-internalize the information, they can come to the group and share their understanding. Then, other learners can absorb this knowledge and make sense of future information.


Interested in community learning solutions? Contact an Ardent expert today.

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