Friday, November 13, 2009

Transaction Versus Community Thinking in Education

I recently read a blog post that talked about the difference between transaction and community in economics. In a transaction, I have something of value (money) and you have something of value (a shirt), and we trade our things of value with each other. Very businesslike and impersonal. You know what you are going to get, and so do I - these things have a predictable, clear worth. In a community, on the other hand,

participants...expect that the community is a source of strength, or value, for them. But to derive value from most communities, participants have to give in a way that is not transactional. You contribute to people within a community without knowing exactly how that value is going to come back to you. The currency is trust - or to use a more wonky term, social capital.

So I started thinking that this concept applies not only to financial transactions, but to all sorts of transactions, including education. Teacher has something of value (grades, diplomas, degrees). Student has something Teacher wants (a particular answer on a test). Teacher and Student come together in the usual school setting and set about engaging in a series of transactions - Teacher tells Student what Student should know, Teacher gives Student a test, Student gives Teacher answers, and Teacher gives Student a grade. All very businesslike and impersonal.

On the other hand, in a school community (such as Wellspring COMMUNITY School), the setup is completely different. It is not about predictable and clear goals and objectives, about SWBATs (Students Will Be Able To...). Instead of working towards "mastery" (and I use the term loosely) of a predetermined set of curricular objectives, we come together in a spirit of trust not really knowing what the outcome will be but having faith that we are going to receive something of value in exchange for our contribution of social capital. And in exchange for that trust, we receive not only information, but friendship and strength.


1 comment:

  1. This post reminds me of the 'gift economy' idea in many traditional societies. Thanks for the post... I enjoy reading the blog daily....