Going back to school in September is a time of excitement, change, and new beginnings. However, this year looks a little different with new routines and practices in place, including changes in learning environments (online, in person, or a mix of the two).
On the one hand, the pandemic brought new challenges for educators and students. On the other hand, it also opened doors and showed us creative paths forward. Teachers, students, and families have worked hard to adapt and ensure educational continuity. Looking ahead, we must be ready to leave behind what doesn’t serve us and take away key learnings. One thing we know for sure: We need strong communities to support learner growth and success.
This blog will define learning communities and look at the roles each member plays.
What Is a Learning Community?
A learning community is an environment that connects people—students, teachers, parents, and learning partners—in working toward and being accountable for common goals. It promotes and values learning as an ongoing, active, collaborative process with dynamic dialogue between all members.
There are several benefits associated with the learning community model, including:
1. Supportive and Shared Leadership
Learning communities are centered on the relationships between students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. This can open doors to more collaborative leadership processes, as different members can take on responsibilities that match the skills they have and those they want to grow.
2. Improved Learning Practices
Another hallmark of learning communities is the space they provide to explore, understand, and improve teaching practices. Discussions will often be centered around aligning the curriculum to learning needs, continuously improving instructional strategies, and enhancing school procedures.
3. A Focus on Inclusivity
It’s also important that learning communities provide members with equitable opportunities to voice their opinions and views. This collaboration helps ensure that everyone is part of a shared process that’s focused on making learning better for students.
Who Is Active in a Learning Community?
Collective responsibility brings together the entire education community. This includes teachers, students, parents, and technology vendors, each of whom plays a unique and important part.
Teachers in the Learning Community
Teachers are the heroes of education.
- They listen to parents, students, and the professional community and regard everyone involved as a potential source of useful information.
- They adapt and adopt new practices to help students learn in ways that suit their needs.
- They educate students and integrate their social, emotional, and intellectual growth to help them make better decisions in their personal lives and in society.
Families in the Learning Community
Families provide vital support as learning partners at home.
- They help their children with homework, goal setting, and other curriculum-related activities.
- They communicate with teachers to develop plans that best support their child’s learning needs.
- They provide children with positive home conditions that encourage learning and appropriate behavior in school.
Students in the Learning Community
Students are crucial members of the learning community.
- They demonstrate unique qualities that enrich the classroom. The learning community celebrates and supports every learner’s assets and works to provide accommodation for differences.
- They foster relationships with one another as they may share common characteristics, roles, and responsibilities.
- They participate in discussion and decision-making. The learning community respects a “different but equal” approach by ensuring that all students have an opportunity to voice their opinion.
Technology Vendors in the Learning Community
Technology vendors help make it possible for students to receive a quality education in different environments.
- They help all members of the learning community, such as parents, teachers, and administrators, stay in contact with one another.
- They create an environment in which learners can interact and share ideas with their peers.
- They provide students and teachers with tools that support basic and advanced modes of information distribution and delivery.
The Future of Learning Communities
For this upcoming school year, educators and school systems have worked hard to put in place practices that protect the quality of learning for all students. While it’s difficult to predict what the future of teaching will look like, one thing is clear—learning communities will be an essential tool in helping all members of the learning journey stay engaged and active in the educational process.
Download a New Door to the Classroom policy brief. It recommends establishing a digital classroom door parallel to physical classrooms to enable equitable access to learning opportunities.