Communities for Learning
John Dewey long ago conceived of schools as "miniature communities" that mirrored the social relations and activities of the larger society in which they were set. Yet, too often, schools have been silos of isolation – classrooms isolated from other classrooms, teachers isolated from other teachers, schools isolated from the outside world.
One common element, though, unites all effective school communities: a commitment on the part of every member to the learning of everyone, children and adults alike. A climate of respect and trust among children and adults is essential to an effective and equitable school. Trust and respect also connote a commitment to the notion that every child deserves and wants to learn, and that every member of the school community is dedicated to every child’s success – their whole success – as measured in their academic, social, emotional, and physical well being.
Greater community and parental participation yields important educational advantages. The George Lucas Foundation cites numerous studies showing that strong home-school connections result in the following outcomes:
– Children do better in school when their parents are involved in their education
– After-school learning opportunities promote student achievement
– Community youth development programs spur academic performance
– Schools that integrate community services reduce risk and promote resilience in children
Professional Learning Communities
Leading experts are advocates for learning teams in which school members collectively pursue professional knowledge and skills and take on shared responsibility for the success of all students. Learning teams, also known as professional learning communities, engage in the reflective practice, collegial inquiry, collaborative work, and continuous innovation on which learning environments thrive. Schools need to foster new forms of professional relationships that build organizational capacity and enhance personal growth.