The Common Room Learning Model
Table 6

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An overview of The Common Room Learning Model:
The Common Room Learning model is based on the idea of people going to a centralized place to get together with like-minded individuals and learn from them as well as impart their own knowledge. At the end of the day, the students are the teachers and the teachers are the students and the pool of knowledge grows a hundredfold from collaboration.

This model offers a learning system that's fully customizable by the student, but exists in a common physical space, creating a learning community that not only grows in knowledge with the increase in it's numbers but changes in diversity of content with more different people joining in.

It emphasizes face-to-face learning within a common meeting space because it recognizes the value of actual human interaction and the community and social networking aspects that arise out of it. Members not only come together to learn from each other in a particular subject area, they also create life networks to help each other out in other ways (ie, moving house, fixing the kitchen sink, playing a game of basketball, etc.)

Scenario Impact

Attitudes, Expectations, Political Support
  • People are dissatisfied with being told what to learn, how to learn, and who to learn from.
  • These people look for what interests them and they see the value in learning from other people who are passionate about their field of learning.
  • Increasingly free access to information online results in dissatisfaction with rising educational costs of "traditional educational institutions".
  • Little or no support from governments

Goals, Functions, Equity

  • More non-formal arrangements and stronger recognition of lifelong learning.
  • Students select the group(s) which best suits individuals' learning styles/preferences and speed
  • Process-based rather than outcome-based
  • Clear recognition of diversity and strong social cohesion goal

Organizations and Structures

  • Learning organizations become co-operatives, rather than hierarchical (a peer learning experience, rather than a "one-lecturer-to-hundred students" learning experience)
  • Emergence of enclaves of small learning communities
  • Student-run rather than teacher-run (Common Rooms are run by interests rather than controlled by teachers)
  • Learning takes place in smaller spaces as opposed to traditional large "grand institutions".

The Geo-Political Dimension

  • Governmental involvement does not extend beyond a regulatory capacity
  • Learning communities are localized in one geographical area due to inherent conditions (e.g. climate), cost savings and the value placed on face-to-face interaction.
  • Common Rooms learning enclaves grow in prominence and gain respect from the community as knowledge centres

The Teaching Force
  • The role of the student and teacher are combined, with students both teaching and learning from other students
  • The "teaching" profession becomes more accessible to everyone who has something to offer in any area of knowledge
  • Teachers no longer have to know 99% of a given topic they want to teach in
  • The community is not only involved in the teaching / learning process but also in the social aspects of carrying out other community tasks and responsibilities

News Stories



The Un-Common Common Man

external image 3280580620_c929397641.jpgThomas Tan is elbows-deep in an industrial vat of cookie dough when we see him. Rejecting the conventional tearoom setting most people are comfortable to be interviewed in, it’s clear after ten minutes of meeting Thomas that he’s an unconventional guy.

“I don’t like doing things the normal way. That’s how my grandfather did it, that’s how Dad did it but that’s not how I’m going to do it,” says Thomas as he pulls his hands out of the vat, catching some stray strands of dough on his shirt in the process. Thomas comes from a long line of baking luminaries in Singapore. His Great-Grandfather Tan Hock Chye started Singa Bakeries in 1945 and since the 1980s, his father Tan Hock Chuan has turned the business into an regional chain with outlets as in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea and Japan.

“I’m trying to bring this to the next level. Physical shops are going to disappear and people aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty anymore, especially in places like this,” Thomas says, gesturing a cookie dough-covered handtowards me. It’s clear he’s definitely not one to be afraid to get his hands dirty. The place he’s talking about is The Common Room Bakeshop, where we are. As we walk through rows and rows of people in various stages of the baking process, Thomas tells us about this “school for people who want to learn how to bake who don’t like to go to school”

“I hated school. I hated assignments, I hated attendance-taking, I hated the whole hierarchy of it all. My Father sent me to Le Cordon Bleu in France and I hated being told that there was only 5 prescribed ways to pipe icing onto a cake. And that’s what’s so great about the Common Room. Because we learn in a community, we’re never afraid to experiment. Anyone can come in at any skill-level and learn new ways to bake. I’ve been a baker for almost 20 years and there are things I’ve learnt in the last 6 months I’ve been coming here that I didn’t even realize could be done.”

Thomas gestures to a slight woman in her twenties and she comes over.

“This is Jenny. She’s a research physicist and up until two months ago, Jenny didn’t know filo from fillet. But here in the Common Room Bakeshop, we don’t care. All we know is Jenny wants to bake and she’s welcome. This Common Room is virtually free to join and there’s no age limit. In fact, I’ve learnt more about the composition of air in the filo pastry from Jenny than I would have from my father with his fourty-odd years of baking experience. And that’s what this place does best – bringing people with common interests together to learn and share techniques and skills. It’s a lifelong learning environment where everyday, you could literally learn something new depending on who’s in the room.”

And he has indeed learnt new things. Singa Bakeries now operates through an online portal that has garnered buyers from as far as Brazil and the Czech Republic. And in was only when Thomas met Jonathan Wong, a web designer and Claire Chang a advertising executive, that this idea of augmenting his physical shop occurred. Jonathan and Claire both share a passion for baking and met Thomas through the Common Room as well.

“Like I said, it’s a great place to meet people and you learn something new everyday. All you need is an interest and the courage to dive in and you’ll be surprised what you’ll find in the Common Room.”




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Do you have a passion for baking?

Are you not afraid to get your hands dirty?

Want to meet like-minded people?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then head down to the Common Room Bakeshop where the latest learning explosion is occurring!

Over five thousand people from mechanics to physicists, designers to pilots have turned into bakers …… and all at virtually no cost!

The group meets every Sunday at 111 Clementi Road, #03-544. Join us if you want to share and learn about what you know. All that’s required is a healthy interest in baking and a willingness to share and that’s it!

Contact us at 12345678 NOW! All are welcome!



An Un-Common Learning Approach

New studies show that we may have more to learn from our children than they do from us. If you grew up with the learning theories of Freud and Lacan, be prepared to reject them once you step into the world of the Common Room.

Started in 2010 as a space where like-minded individuals can get together to learn from each other in a common space, the first Common Room evolved from an automobile enthusiast group who found that their members could bring different skills to the table to create their own cars. “In the beginning, it was just a bunch of guys who were interested in cars. But then, we realized that there were designers, engineers and scientists in the group and with our combined skills , we could ostensibly design and build our own car. And that was how we started,” says David Teo, one of the first members of the Common Room Autoshop.

external image 3873957909_107de87729.jpgIn the Common Room Child Psychology class, things may look like they’ve gone to the extreme; in a workshop where more than five hundred parents have signed up to be taught by children. These child “teachers” are aged 10 – 18 and in the Common Room’s free learning model, adults and children engage in freeform discussions about anything and everything, learning more about each other in the process.

“This is such an eye-opener, instead of reading all these books about child psychology and going to all those so-called “experts” with their certificates and degrees, I realize now that the real “experts” are the kids themselves! My only regret about this workshop is that I didn’t attend one of these earlier,” explained Mr. Tan, who has problems with his teenage son who has already run away from home twice.

“After going for these workshops, I understand better, the mindset and the world that these children live in and I now know that I cannot impose my own 1990s values on my son, who lives in the here and now.” Mr. Tan has already made significant progress with his son, Max and has even convinced him to come to the Common Room Child Psychology group meeting to be a “teacher” himself.

If you want to know more about these workshops, please call 12345678 or email



Singa Bakeries Closes Down

Singa Bakeries, Singapore's oldest bakery chain, closed it's doors yesterday, signaling the final nail in the coffin for the dwindling baking industry in Singapore. Mr. Thomas Tan, CEO of Singa Bakeries was seen yesterday at the main and oldest branch in Toa Payoh, shutting the doors which his grandfather, Mr. Tan Hock Chye opened in 1945.

"It's a sad day for all of us but since people started baking in community micro-bakery co-operatives, our business has been affected. Many smaller bakeries have long since gone but 3 months ago, we realized that it was a futile fight to hold on," exclaimed a teary-eyed Mr. Tan.

Many have attributed the collapse of the baking industry to the emergence of the Common Room learning groups in the early part of the century. Mr. Thomas Tan himself was part of a Common Room - the Common Room Bakeshop - that encouraged like-minded individuals to come together to learn skills and acquire knowledge from each other with no barrier to entry other than a willingness to learn and share.

The Common Room models have faced opposition from traditionalists since it began. With its advocation of free learning and easy access, it has come under fire for it's potential to eliminate industries traditionally powered by exclusive expert knowledge.

To date, the baking industry is the second to face collapse since the collapse of the automobile industry 2 years ago. Ironically, the first Common Room group was a group of automobile enthusiasts who got together to design, engineer and fabricate their own cars.

"People blame the Common Room but it's empowering - free access and information is the wave of the future and the sooner we can eliminate the one-corporation-with-absolute-power model, the faster that power will go back to it's rightful owners - the people," says Mr. David Teo, the founder of the Common Room Autoshop.

The old premises of Singa Bakeries in Toa Payoh will be converted to a museum with a planned launch in May 2031.

Scenario Outcomes

1. Framework of education

Education would become student-centric, informal and sharing of knowledge occurs without prejudice. Educational qualifications like degrees, masters programmes would diminish in importance and become obselete.

2. Knowledge created/shared
Common Room Learning model would work better for the sharing of skill-based experience. There would be a mushrooming of workshops teaching "how to" do things where students can observe and practice what they learn.

Because there is no clear path for progression across different levels of knowledge, unlike traditional institutions, knowledge could remain superficial.

3. Social Cohesion
Social interaction between people living in the same area and attending these workshops will increase exponentially. Learning becomes easier, fun and more pleasurable.

4. Impact on learners
Learning will be dependent on the motivation of the individual learner. They can choose to learn more or less, and there is no certification at the end of their learning process. The level of competency will vary widely between individuals depending on their personal learning experience.

Learners will likely choose to learn what they like and this may not be in sync with the economic development goals of the nation.

5. Impact on the workforce and industry
There may be a shortage of expertise in complex professions such as doctors, architects, researchers, engineers and accountants. For the industry, it will be a challenge to recruit staff as there is no standard yardstick of accessment across job candidates.

Leslie Tan
Mélanie Morrissette
Ng Lai Leng
Yong Bee Leng

References for pictures:

How to build community retrieved from
Cup cakes retrieved from
Common room bakeshop retrieved from
An un-common learning approach retrieved from