Human existence (or be-ing) is profoundly relational. Yet educational environments often assume that learning happens individually. Though many educators are trying to rectify this problem by introducing community into the learning process, these efforts are too often simply overlaid onto a system that works through competition and rewards individual achievement. Therefore, an alternative perspective for who we are as humans and how we should be together is needed. In this dissertation, I examine what it means to be fundamentally related and show how such an understanding might impact learning. We often think of “community” as a place, but I also use it to embody an alternative understanding of human be-ing: how we are and should be related and the process by which we can learn to embrace our ethical responsibilities. This second way of understanding community addresses a mode of be-ing that describes how we should come together: with (or “com”) unity. I use religious narratives to explore what a non-modern understanding of relational be-ing might mean for education. Looking at community in a religious context is helpful because it offers a different framework for understanding human be-ing. Using three stories found in Genesis—(a) the Creation of the world including the introduction of Adam and Eve, (b) their Fall, and (c) their Expulsion from Eden—I argue that they reveal the importance of three aspects of community: (a) diversity, a deep appreciation for our and others' enduring individuality, (b) unity, a willingness to be responsible both to and for others in a particular, ethical way, and (c) work, the catalyst for coming together and making relationships purposeful. Understanding how the aspects of diversity, unity, and work strengthen supportive relationships is an important way to understand community, including learning communities. It suggests that the purpose of education should be to help learners realize their moral responsibilities to others and teach them how to respond to that obligation. Moral learning communities can generate experiences that speak more authentically to human be-ing. They enhance education so that learning becomes not only more meaningful but truly life-changing.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


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community, learning community, morality, ethics, Adam and Eve, narrative, diversity, unity, work, abundance, learning, moral relationship, being, education, responsibility, lived experience