Saturday, March 29, 2014

Invigorating Learning Communities

How can we invigorate learning communities small and large? A learning community is the community of individuals committed to learning. For example, my classroom is a learning community that includes students, teachers, parents, community members, and educational leaders. My school learning community includes all of my colleagues, families, the greater community, students, and leaders. As educators, we all belong to multiple learning communities online and off.

How can we invigorate these communities so that we're always moving towards best effort and result? How can we navigate the waterfalls of promising new research, materials, tools, processes, and ideas for best effect?

In this day and age, there is no reason why our learning communities can't be positive, forward moving, organizations of growth and development?  Yet, we may be stymied in old think and structures that prohibit the best of what we can do.

So, in moving forward, we need to think about the following questions:

First, and foremost, what do we believe in. I think most learning communities can agree that they want to serve every child well with programs that are engaging, empowering, and successful.  Defining what engaging, empowering, and successful looks like in the learning community is essential.  What does apt engagement look like?  Who is an empowered student, and what attributes define that?  How do we define success for each child, grade, activity, learning objective?

Next, I think we have to look at the integrity of our structures. What structures produce vital, successful learning, and what structures need repair?  This can be analyzed on many levels. For example, as a classroom teacher, I need to continually look at the learning design and structures I employ to see what works and what doesn't.  I keep a running list of successful strategies, and quickly retire those strategies that don't lead to greater growth, engagement, or academic success.

Then, we have to employ new strategies to invigorate our learning/teaching communities. For example, I think that long-term, traditional committee work might evolve to include short-term, differentiated, targeted study groups and learning pilots--groups that are responsible for targeted growth and change.  I also think we need to re-look at communication systems assessing the systems to identify those that lead to vigorous share and learning, and those that don't promote better work, share, and learning.

There's much to think about as we consider the ways we already support vigorous learning communities, and the ways that we can do this better.  I will bring these questions to my own microsphere of learning, the classroom community, in the days to come.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas in this regard.