When we look around us, we see most schools nowadays promoting the attractive vision of the school as a learning community. But what exactly is a learning community and how can we foster one in our own school?
How to Build learning communities
Building a learning community within the classroom involves creating an inclusive atmosphere that is both comforting and conducive. Transitioning away from the mindset of difficulties toward the mindset of developing strategies to build consensus and understanding helps all students meet their goals.
A learning community is one in which all educators acquire new ideas and accept responsibility for making the school work. The educational leader’s task is to recalibrate the goals of the school in such a way that learning is rewarded for all learners on all levels. In learning communities, the focus is on the learners—on their learning (the way they learn rather than being taught) and the achievement of the learners is the top priority of the school.
School as a Learning Community
A school becomes a learning community when there is a great level of engagement between its learners and educator. The results improve when both are aware of the fact that there is always further room for improvement in any community. In such communities, there is immediate, direct intervention being provided for students who are falling behind. These interventions are regularly reviewed. Personalized learning plans are designed to meet the individual learning needs of a learner.
This way the students increasingly become aware of their surroundings and form their opinions which contribute to the overall perspective building exercise in such a learning community. A school must offer learning as a key to the world—as a key to an infinite number of ways of being and participating in the world. It must thrive on diversity, and ultimately cater to the betterment of the society. Students coming out of schools should not only be knowledgeable but also be self-directed, creative, and adaptable. The young subjects come to schools to develop the means to expand, explore and express who they are and how they fit into the world. For each student, the process must be different, and that difference will be part of who the student is and part of the student’s unique contribution to his or her various communities.
The Four Cs of Learning
Every educator should strive to incorporate the four Cs of Learning, i.e. Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration into his or her teaching-learning. These are the skills that students must develop to succeed in a rapidly evolving modern world. Industry professionals or subject experts should be invited to classrooms to offer students authentic mentorship and feedback. It offers students new and exciting experiences and learning opportunities.
My greatest memories as an educator are the ones where I opened the doors of my teaching-learning to a wide range of experiences for the learners; be it inviting resource persons to the school or outdoor learning trips. I have never confined learning to the four walls of a classroom. For me, it has been a wonderful experience to create learning spaces that invite the outside community as education partners. It helps to connect classroom content to real-world experiences.
In all of my partnerships with community organizations, the importance of a shared mission and goal has proven to be the surest sign of success. If we look around, we will see a number of community organizations that will be interested in partnering with the school. Another thing that is very helpful is presenting students’ work to the community through exhibitions and performances. It improves school culture and community image through exhibitions and performances that help “shine the light” on students whose talent may not be apparent in the classroom.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
I always remind myself of the ancient African saying: “it takes a village to raise a child”. Children learn best when they are exposed to multiple role models, diverse perspectives, and a network of committed educators. The African saying tells us that the village is much larger than the four walls of our classrooms. There is no fundamental rule that says teaching and learning must begin and end within the four walls of your classroom. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the village should be invited into schools to serve as a true educational partner. So open your doors to the community and invite the village in.
Remediana Dias is the author of the book—“Understanding Dyslexia”. She studied M.Sc in Specific Learning Difficulties at the University of Southampton, UK. She is the founder of the NGO—Vision Education Society in Goa. She was recently recognized as the Indian Achiever among the top 50 under 50 for the year 2020 for her work in the field of education.
Also Read by Remediana Dias: Developing Communication Skills of Learners