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Informal learning organizations as part of an educational ecology: Lessons from collaboration across the formal-informal divide

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Abstract

How do informal learning organizations work with schools as part of a broader educational ecology? We examined this question through a comparative case study of two collaborative efforts whereby informal arts education organizations, a children’s museum and a community-based organization, worked with an urban school district to redefine the provision of educational services for children and youth. Grounded conceptually in organizational theory, our study identified factors that enable and constrain collaboration across the formal-informal divide. We argue that examining the dynamics of cross-sector collaboration as occurring within a regional ecology of diverse learning organizations and broader institutional context provides insights into the outcomes of joint work. Our findings have implications for designing collaborations between schools and informal organizations that contribute to their respective strength, as well as the broader regional educational ecology in which they reside.

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Notes

  1. All organization names are pseudonyms.

  2. Reggio Emilia is an educational approach that draws upon the work of Dewey and Vygotsky, and values the role of parents, teachers and other children in the co-construction of knowledge and the acceptance of the child as full of potential (Edwards et al. 1993). This approach has a strong focus on the “expressive arts,” and pays great attention to the design of classroom spaces and materials in order to provide an environment respectful to teachers and students and conducive to creative collaborative work.

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Correspondence to Jennifer Lin Russell.

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Russell, J.L., Knutson, K. & Crowley, K. Informal learning organizations as part of an educational ecology: Lessons from collaboration across the formal-informal divide. J Educ Change 14, 259–281 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-012-9203-4

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