Learning Communities Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1651 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

Creating Thriving Learning Communities for Our Future

There is nothing that brings communities together more than the hope for a brighter future. When improving education is involved, people tend to band together and work toward a common goal, even if they have disagreed on just about every conceivable issue in the past. When it comes to the future of the nation, most people agree that a good education is the key to success. The desire for a better future for is the foundation of the creation of thriving learning communities.

According to the Department of Education (2003) "Learning communities are developed where groups of people, linked geographically or by shared interest, collaborate and work in partnership to address their members' learning needs…[they] are a powerful tool for social cohesion, community capacity building and social, cultural and economic development (cited in Kilpatrick & Jones, p. 3). Based on this definition, learning communities are the solution to virtually all of society's ills. While ideally, this may be true in terms of what a "perfect" learning community could offer, at the very least, a successful learning community could create a positive collective attitude towards learning and education that resonates with people of all ages, ethnicities and beliefs.

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While it is important to have high goals for a learning community, it is also important to make sure that goals are realistically achievable. Otherwise, the community is left feeling as if promises were broken and expectations were dashed. For example, promising that every student that graduates college will have a six figure job may sound like a great way to inspire community support, but in the end, it is only going to tarnish the credibility of the entire idea of community mobilization for a better education and lifelong learning.

Research Paper on Learning Communities Assignment

At the heart of a successful learning community is the shared idea that learning is part of a social process. Learning does not occur in a vacuum; it is a culmination of a wide range of input and output. It is a process of exchange of ideas, and the open flow of communication. Moreover, as Kilpatrick & Jones express, learning communities "not only facilitate the sharing of knowledge, but have the potential to create new knowledge that can be used for the benefit of the community as a whole and/or its individual members" (p. 4).

The generation of new knowledge is what makes the learning process an ongoing and lifelong endeavor. Yet in order to create and exchange new knowledge, there has to be a widespread acceptance of diversity and collective tolerance for new, unfamiliar, and possibly uncomfortable ideas. This is where the road to developing successful learning communities often becomes blocked. People tend to be so entrenched in their own ideas of what is right and what is true and what is important that they often fail to take into consideration ideas that do not directly coincide with their own. As such, one of the primary objectives of creating a thriving learning community is to break down the barriers that prevent people from opening their minds. Clearly, this is no easy task, considering that great thinkers have been attempting to achieve this goal for centuries. However when the importance of the education and the future is reiterated as the primary concern, people tend to be more likely to put their egos aside and work together for the greater good.

A positive step in this direction is to align the visions of our educational institutions with those of the community. Only then will we be able to devise mission and vision statements that promote a positive direction for the school as well as the larger community. This does not mean that the school's vision must be in direct alignment with every member of the community. Clearly that would be an impossibility, considering that no matter how much the importance of education can bring a community together, different people have different ideas and unique needs and desires. However, in a general sense, the school's mission and vision should reflect the primary needs of the community -- a community which is comprised of parents whose primary interest in school affairs is to provide the best possible education for its members and future leaders. Because we share that common ground, the means to the end must be strategically planned to achieve that mutual goal.

According to Sybouts (1992), a mission statement "should contain the vision of a stronger and improved school system, in which the school enhances the quality of life in the community as defined in the immediate and distant future" (p. 47). It is therefore the responsibility of educational leaders to ensure that such a statement is more than just a bunch of empty promises. It is also their duty to make sure that a plan for carrying out the mission and vision is not simply filed away in a drawer and never addressed. Developing a shared vision is only the first step in the learning enhancement process. Implementation and evaluation must follow in order for any strategic plan to be successful.

The most logical way to gain support from the community for any school improvement plan or initiative is to ask the community what it wants, and then develop a vision that is aligned with those desires. The problem, of course, is that communities are not homogenous entities -- they are the larger product of thousands of individuals who each have their own ideas, beliefs, cultures and concerns. Moreover, the community is not always as aware of what the schools need as the school faculty and administrators are, simply because its members are not usually involved on a day-to-day basis.

Ultimately it is up to the school administrators to make the important decisions regarding reform initiatives, curricula, assessment, behavioral policies and the like. However, exercising this authority without first investigating the needs and wants of the community, is likely to result in a lack of community support. Even though the individual members of the community will disagree on various issues, as the long as the focus remains on the shared common goal of providing a better education for young and fertile minds, objections should be minimized. As Felner et al. (1997) explain, "the bottom line is that public schools work to the extent to which they, in partnership with the communities they serve, enable students to learn and achieve at high levels and help them become healthy, responsible, and productive citizens in our democracy. If reform efforts do not produce gains in the achievement, learning, performance, and adjustment of students from all backgrounds, then no matter what else they produce, we would judge them to have fallen short of this standard" (p. 521).

Equally important to devising a vision for the school is communicating that vision effectively. According to Arlestig (2007) "Communication is an important process inside schools and the most frequently used tool by organizational leaders" (p. 262). Educational leaders may have the greatest plan for the development of a learning community ever conceived, however if they fail to properly communicate it to the school and to the community, it is of no use to anyone. Contrary to what many leaders think, communication does not have to be manipulative or even persuasive in order to be successful. Above all else, communication needs to be honest. By explaining one's vision for the school and the community in straightforward terms - terms that include valid reasoning behind each principle outlined -- educational administrators can garner faculty and community support based simply on the merits of the plan.

Of course even a fantastic vision that is beautifully articulated can be met with some resistance simply because people are often naturally resistant to change of any kind, even change for the better. There many sources of resistance to change.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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