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May 1, 2004
Vol. 61
No. 8

Web Wonders / Schools as Learning Communities

Web Wonders / Schools as Learning Communities- thumbnail
How can educators implement shared learning across all the groups that touch the life of a school? The following Web sites describe some of the many ways in which schools can create learning communities.

The Learning Organization

Peter Senge's theories about the “learning organization” have captured the imagination of educators and corporate executives alike. Senge defines a learning organization as one in which people “expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire” by nurturing expansive thinking, collective aspiration, and the ability “to see the whole together.” His Web site (www.infed.org/thinkers/senge.htm) gives succinct accounts of Senge's five essential components of a learning organization and the role of leaders within it. According to Senge, learning organizations are important because they can move beyond “survival learning” to “generative learning,” which will enable them to adapt to continual change.

Family, Community, and Learning

The National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University (www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/default.htm) highlights practices that foster student achievement by capitalizing on family and community involvement. Click on the In the Spotlight link to find hundreds of shared-learning initiatives from schools across the United States during the past six years. For example, at Loreto Elementary School in Los Angeles, two authors of children's books trained teachers to help parents write their own books about their family experiences. Check out the TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork) link on the Web site for ways to bring families into the life of the school.
The report A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement (www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf) from the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools synthesizes research showing that student achievement increases when families and communities are involved. The descriptions of individual research projects on family-school connections provide ideas for improving school, home, and community relations across different grades, socioeconomic levels, and ethnic backgrounds.

Lesson Study

Sponsored by Columbia University's Teachers College, the Lesson Study Research Group (www.tc.columbia.edu/lessonstudy) conducts research on lesson study and its impact on long-term professional development. A practice originating in Japan, lesson study involves a group of teachers within a school—or even across schools—who meet to develop a specific content lesson while focusing on a targeted research theme that can be schoolwide or subject-based. The site's “Tools for Conducting Lesson Study” offer practical examples of the lesson study process. For a detailed FAQ about lesson study, follow the link to Research for Better Schools (www.rbs.org/lesson_study/faq.shtml), which also has advice for districts that wish to explore lesson study.

The E-Learning Community in the United Kingdom

Learn how education leaders in the United Kingdom see information technology fostering collaborative learning communities in the 21st century. An online video clip and slide show features Stephen Molyneux, a keynote speaker on “Active Learning Communities” at the First Online Community Learning Conference (www.ncsl.org.uk/index.cfm?pageid=comms-oclc). The conference is sponsored by the United Kingdom's National College for School Leadership, which champions e-learning as a powerful means of fostering ongoing exchanges among educators.

New Teachers

If your school or district wants to strengthen its new teacher induction program, then the Public Education Network's report, The Voice of the New Teacher (www.publiceducation.org/pdf/PEN_Pubs/Voice_of_the_New_Teacher.pdf), can lay the groundwork. Sections on induction programs, mentors, and teaching diverse student populations give details about how to bring new teachers into the learning life of the school.

From the One to the Many

The success of learning communities ultimately resides in the willingness of the individuals involved to take responsibility for their own learning. For educators seeking to develop professional development plans, the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse and the National Staff Development Council have teamed up to provide “By Your Own Design” (www.enc.org/professional/guide/index.shtm). Start with the Overview for a primer in learner-centered professional development and determine which “pathway” you should follow. A sequence of online reading, videos, guidelines, and reflection and discussion tools will get you started on the high road to lifelong learning.

Rick Allen is a former ASCD writer and content producer.

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