About myself: learning languages, music, Earth sciences, maps, programming, meditation, cooking… teaching.
I have been learning a lot, at school and in open source; I have been observing open source communities and see that some are more successful in passing knowledge to a new generation of contributors. I have been reading about many other apparently unrelated topics but I started finding patterns: I present them today.
It is (still) seen as a gift. Usually great teachers let pupils work on a new task with minimal help and interference. They leave freedom to participate in class or to do quietly something else. They leave the pupil choice on what to do and when. They are knowledgeable on the topic they teach, but show curiosity over more topics. They show that a topic can be connected to other topics, even remote ones; they make the pupils want to know more, to explore without the teacher, optionally asking help from time to time. Were you introduced to open source by someone like this?
It is obviously connected with teaching. We usually think of school, where teachers pass on their knowledge to a group of pupils, asking only silence and attention. Think of taming an animal and teach it tricks. It requires constant control from the human and the animal is not expected to provide its ideas to the games.
It is working, as people still remember concepts from school; but what proportion has been forgotten? On the other side, how much do you remember of the topics you decided to learn yourself and on your own?
Learning implies concentration, but this concentration is usually not explicitely taught nor requested. See next section for more about this.
What if the pupil (human or animal) is protagonist of learning? Why should this not work, what problems could arise? What is the preparation required to manage your learning path yourself?
I was able to decide my time management only at university, but with appropriate preparation and guidance, I think I (and other people) could have taken this responsibility much earlier.
Think of how many things you all learned on your own, without any teacher or schedule - most probably, a great part of your open source knowledge.
Concentration is a key element for learning. Therefore it has been identified in many domains, where it is generated by various means.
Concentration leads to progress on a chosen topic. A teacher has to teach how to concentrate before being able to teach something on that topic.
Concentration is generated by the individual. Therefore progress does not require the teacher. The teacher can however work on the environment, to facilitate concentration. See Montessori educators, who do not interrupt children and wait for being called for help.
Think of how easily you can reach a good level of concentration on your pet open source project: can you work uninterrupted for an acceptable length of time? How long does it take to dive into your task?
The learning environment works best when it is well kept, with everything in place, ready to be used. A tidy and functional room invites you to be active and to dedicate all energy in your chosen activity (without requiring you to clean up first). See the cleaning up as a functional task. Montessori method relies on “prepared environment”: ordered, with objects and learning tools adapted to children. Would you join an open source project without a clear structure, list of tasks, documentation?
Think of how many things you all learned on your own, without someone guiding you step by step. Think of what you liked to have, what you found important to make progress on your own. Be grateful that you are in the time of Internet and that a huge amount of information is readily available!
Now take some time to observe newbies of your pet project, see which questions come out more often from people who look really interested in joining the project: work to fix those problems first. These issues are usually disruptions of flow/concentration (e.g. lack of order).