No one is an island. It takes a village. Many hands make light work.
It’s likely you’ve heard some of these clichés before. While perhaps overused, each one underscores the value of community: the idea that, no matter what you’re doing, having others to count on along the way makes progress easier for everyone involved. The same is true in education.
A strong learning community involves students, teachers, parents and guardians equally. The best part: Each stakeholder benefits. Teachers who are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed get to share responsibility with others and have more engaged students. Those students who are more engaged get a richer education and find another way to connect with their parents and guardians. Parents and guardians take a more active role in their student’s learning and receive more regular updates from teachers.
These benefits are far-reaching across entire school districts. More support for educators can improve retention and reduce feelings of burnout, while engaged students may perform better.
Clearly, there are many benefits of a learning community, but how does each stakeholder participate? In this blog post, we define what a learning community is and discuss the role that each contributor plays.
What Are Learning Communities in K-12 Schools?
A learning community connects the stakeholders of a child’s education, which can include students, teachers, parents and guardians. In an effective learning community, each of these groups works toward and is accountable for common goals. That means a dynamic learning environment for children, a fulfilling and exciting work environment for teachers and a highly communicative relationship for a parent or guardian. Learning communities promote and value learning as an ongoing, active, collaborative process with dialogue between all members.
Teachers are often the catalysts to getting their learning community started. But once parents, guardians and students begin to understand their places within them, they begin to shoulder some of the responsibility that normally falls on a teacher. The best part: There is intrinsic value to being involved with a learning community, meaning it doesn’t necessarily add to the workload of tired parents.
So, what role does each party play in a learning community?
The Role Students Play in Learning Communities
The student’s job in a learning community is to, well, learn. That might seem obvious, but it’s important to acknowledge and expand upon. How does a learning community help students learn?
When students receive support from teachers at school and from parents and guardians at home, they’re more likely to finish assignments and not fall behind. This is especially the case when parents have access to an online portal to see what their learners are working on, what due dates are upcoming and what kind of feedback they’ve been receiving from their children’s teachers.
Keeping on top of schoolwork and budgeting their time appropriately means that students can avoid stressful situations and focus on learning. It can also increase opportunities for further education: When students firmly grasp a concept instead of cramming for a test, they’re more likely to apply it to real-world situations. This mastery can give students confidence to take risks and challenge themselves, resulting in a more rewarding educational experience.
The Role Teachers Play in Learning Communities
It goes without saying that teachers play an important role in the learning journey of their students. But to contribute to a learning community, they must also engage with parents and guardians. Communication is a crucial aspect of a learning community.
When educators communicate with parents on how students are faring, it reduces the level of surprise come report card time. Communication also enables parents to intervene sooner, helping their learner shore up areas of weakness between assignments rather than between report cards. This leads students to apply their learning sooner. When parents are included in their child’s learning community, they share some of the responsibility of learning, which in turn reduces the demands on teachers.
The Role Parents Play in Learning Communities
As we’ve suggested, the role of the parent and guardian is to help keep learners on track, even at home. This is especially important as many districts move to permanently adopt blended learning models. When students can learn asynchronously, they’re able to work with less strict deadlines. But until they’ve mastered self-management, they need home support to ensure they’re not falling behind.
Parents and guardians can support their children by taking an active role in their education. Understanding what their students are working on in class, what they’re struggling with and what they’re enjoying can lead to richer conversations and more intentional guidance. For instance:
- A parent whose child is learning about world history can ask what the most and least interesting parts of the lessons were and uncover why.
- A guardian whose student is having trouble with long division can seek additional help from a teacher or tutor, especially when a child might not feel comfortable advocating for themselves.
- A family whose student is fascinated by weather systems can do DIY science experiments together on the weekend, fostering the intrinsic joy of learning.
Helping the learning continue beyond the classroom can make a student’s educational journey more fulfilling and impactful. This leads to the lifelong pursuit of knowledge, ensuring that children grow up to become curious and inquisitive members of society. This is backed by science: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a 2012 report that higher parental engagement is linked to positive outcomes like improved student behavior, higher academic achievement and stronger social skills.
Each person in a learning community plays an equal role. Importantly, each contributor also benefits from a strong learning community: Teachers share responsibilities, students get richer learning experiences and parents connect more deeply to their student’s education. The result is that everyone feels more supported, engaged and informed.