Shared learning is a concept that recognises the contributions and limitations of different types of knowledge and skill sets for understanding and solving complex problems or tasks.
Learning from one another enables us to better understand what is required of a situation or a problem, so that we can modify and enhance our contributions to produce a better final product or outcome. While the value of shared learning may be context dependent – in some cases independent learning or/or simple transfer of knowledge from expert to novice will suffice – shared learning recognises that in many cases people with different roles and expertise will have valuable knowledge to contribute to addressing an issue.
Why engage in shared learning?
Shared learning supports the development of more effective solutions, because they come from a range of perspectives and disciplines, and as such, are more robust and reflective of the ‘real-world’. Co-producing solutions with end-users leads to a greater sense of ownership of those solutions, improving support, uptake and usage. In addition, the quality and usefulness of output (whether decision tools, information products, or data sources) is almost always improved through co-production involving both the target end-user groups and the technical experts or scientists/researchers.
How can shared learning be achieved?
Simply acknowledging the value of diverse forms of knowledge can empower those who would otherwise be marginalised to question and challenge dominant assumptions. Shared learning then requires deep collaboration across people and disciplines. While it might seem more efficient for one person or team to simply consult in order to take into account other perspectives, it is unrealistic to expect knowledge and skill holders from one area to quickly and deeply understand other perspectives.
Thus, the art of shared learning lies in the contribution of different knowledge and skill holders themselves to the translation or transformation of a particular area of knowledge for application in their own domain. Such cross-domain collaboration is crucial to the production of information that has the best chance of being used, but it won’t happen naturally. It depends on having a clear plan for collaboration, founded on core principles and explicitly articulated approaches like those shared in the Principles section.
Shared learning is important because:
- more robust solutions come from the variety of expertise
- information developed will be more relevant when the context of its use is deeply understood
- relationships are built and can be leveraged for further learning or other collaborative projects
- including members of the community in the process encourages their ownership of it, and as a consequence their championing of the outcomes
Shared learning recognises that there needs to be a two-way flow of information:
- between practitioners and researchers
- among practitioners
- involving practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers