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History of Entangled Learning


In November 2014, Paul Treuer and Laurel Whisler led a pre-conference workshop on 21st century learning skills at the College Reading and Learning Association national conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The workshop explored our ideas about designing learning experiences around a framework that we think produces deep learning.  Workshop participants and colleagues pulled us into conversations that suggested there is interest in what we were exploring.  Our ideas built upon themselves as well as material we were reading, compelling us to explore their potential even further.  Paul urged Laurel to write an article about her work using communities of practice in a peer education program as a way to extend training and learning into all aspects of the program.  The curriculum she developed was based on the framework for learning described in Paul's article with Jill Jenson.  As we discussed ideas in one version of her article, we discovered the new model which we call "Entangled Learning."


The name of our model relates to networks of learners and to this spirit of playfulness and creativity.  While working together on a challenging project, we playfully and creatively drew upon the imagery of Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment in quantum physics, to express frustration at the simultaneous possibilities for success and failure of an initiative.  The Schrödinger cat experiment refers to qualities that quantum particles exhibit as they interact, particularly that they influence the characteristics of other particles.  The connection with our model is that learners influence each other as they learn together.


Entangled Learning was first implemented at Clemson University in January 2015, to provide structure to the training programs for new and experienced Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders.  The 120 SI leaders were organized into 10 communities of practice, and each of these groups worked independently as entangled learners.  The CU 1110 - Introduction to Supplemental Instruction training course (1 credit hour) functioned as an entangled course for the SI leaders, now called peer-assisted learning leaders (PAL). With reorganization at Clemson, the CU 1110 course now includes peer leaders in the course support programs area (PAL leaders, tutors, and facilitators for cooperative learning labs). It remains a highly entangled course.


The Entangled Learning Collaborative was formed in March 2015.  Its practice is writing and giving presentations about Entangled Learning.  Current members include Paul Treuer, Laurel Whisler, and Abby Stephan.  Numerous people have participated in the Entangled Learning Collaborative, including Sarah Dickenson, Eric McGuirk, and Molly Makos. 

Entangled Learning has been the subject of numerous peer-reviewed presentations for regional and national conferences, including the College Reading and Learning Association (2015) and the Association for the Tutoring Profession (2017).  Peer-reviewed articles have been published in journals related to learning and tutoring in higher education as well as in proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Educators.

In August 2017, Clemson University's College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences launched the General Engineering Learning Community (GELC) to support students who need more attention for developing their calculus skills as they enter the General Engineering Program. Based in an Entangled Learning approach, these students collaborate in community to support each other's learning, and they document their own learning in the process. End of semester results show greater success than for qualifying non-participants. In December 2018, the program was awarded a $1.25 million grant to support the program and its students for two years.

It was through working with the peer educators for the course support programs area, peer coaches for the GELC, and the GELC students themselves, that Laurel and Abby reported to Paul the challenges of using the original model (EL1). After months of innovation, discussion, and revision, the new model (EL2) emerged. It is currently in use with the GELC and is starting to be used in faculty development as well.


**Jenson, J. & Treuer, P. (2014). Defining the e-portfolio: What it is and why it matters. Change, 46(2), 50-57.



This work was supported in part by the Clemson University Creative Inquiry Program and the Ted G. Westmoreland Academic Success Program.

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