Transforming Schools Into Learning Communities

Introduction

Essentially speaking the roots of community learning can be traced long into the history of the structure, to be precise in the18th century. Surprisingly, to most of us, the concept seems to be a new one. Yet quite a number have never heard of it at all. Yet quite a number have never heard of it at all. But in reality, it is not. In 1896, John Dewey launched a concept entitled “School As Social Center” in Chicago. Entirely, the idea was all about leaning in communities. As the name suggests, the idea brought school and society closer and made them more compatible. This was a paradigm shift from the conventional learning in a four-cornered room (Sergiovanni, 2008, p. 87). Traditionally, learning and community were perceived as different entities, but with learning communities the divisions would be transformed to complement each other. At the start, the idea received a cold reception from quarters that implemented the initials projects. However, after the first few projects, overwhelming support was witnessed. Consequently, it gave birth to a conspicuous movement that spread across the North American region, hitting its climax in the 20th century.

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Subsequently, the movement expanded to cover regions across America and beyond. The trend continued to unfold impressively. In order to respond to the emerging issues, several organizations sprung to spearhead the exploration and development of the idea. A good example is the International Community Education and learning Association (ICEA). Over the years, this organization has exceeded expectations in the development of Community learning. The organization was founded in the 1970s and since then it has grown in leaps and bounds amidst challenges. As we speak it is the strongest recognized voice of learning communities (Sergiovanni, 2008, p. 75). Basically, its main operations are centered on the promotion and assistance of community learning groups across the globe. Right now, ICEA has representations in over 90 countries and it is recognized by the Council of Europe. In addition, ICEA has technical operational links with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This paper critically elucidates the overview of Community learning and several methods of implementation. The paper further discusses the challenges facing Community learning

Overview of Community learning

Briefly, the term Community learning can be defined as the initiative of learning in a community, within a community, and for the community. Therefore, community becomes an integral part of all the learning. As we speak, research done on several education systems indicates accuracy and competence among the graduates of learning communities. Most experts agree with several studies and analyses of this system indicating that learning communities are a vital unifying aspect of the community as a whole regardless of cultural origins and differences.

As a result, adding value to the contribution and development of society and restructuring of ecological consciousness, economic infrastructure, cultural diversity, and structural forms. Additionally, community learning is a key element in the expansion of responsibilities as far as individuals and the community is concerned. The vision, mission, and objectives share the sole purpose of improving the quality of livelihood in the neighborhood and beyond (Gallagher, Bagin & Moore, 2012, p. 102).

Therefore, community learning has the perspective of intervention learning and ensures that the learners remain active economically, ecologically, socially, and politically even as they delve into deep academic waters. This perception contradicts the convention of loading learners with information and testing them with mere written or oral examinations (Gallagher, Bagin & Moore, 2012, p. 102). According to the Rio de Janeiro Education convention, in 1992, sustainable education development ought to take into account the implementation of the problem-solving mechanism. This mechanism needs to be grounded from a local level and collectively involving the majority of the interested parties. In retro respect, successful implementation of a problem-solving approach at a smaller unit has a higher probability of success replication on a larger scale. Practically in our discussion, a working learning strategy in a small village is more likely to be replicated successfully globally.

Holistically, the achievement of this approach can be attributed to its perception and priority in empowerment through active membership and involvement in the surrounding functional social systems and people. This leads to reactivation and redefinition of learners’ and teachers’ relationships. The new relationships are inclusive in nature as a new order of learning is established. Relationships are expanded from classrooms discussions to real-life guidance and mentorship (Gallagher, Bagin & Moore, 2012, p. 102). Achievement is no longer based on academic prowess but identification, articulation, and implementation of felt challenges and problems in a community. New opportunities are introduced as people can take up economic initiatives of establishing learning places in the community. This could result in better acknowledgment of the learning process. Thus, learning becomes part and parcel of local development, the development link between learning and community becomes intertwined. The fear and hate associated with schools can be mitigated.

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How to implement Community learning

Implementation of Community learning is a key process that needs to be done carefully. They are several methods that can be used to implement Community learning. They include the following.

Awareness creation

This is the backbone of community learning. Depending on the context of the community, different strategies are employed for different audiences. In developed countries project managers have opted to involve the latest technology when reaching out to their potential clients. A case in point is the utilization of internet services such as sending emails, using social media among others (Decker, Gregg & Decker, 1996, p. 56). For competent and successful communication, diverse channels of communication are highly recommended. Over-dependence on a few channels can lead to disappointment. Diversity contributes to the robustness of communication.

Critical to note at this particular point, several additional publicity skills need to be employed in community learning, above the usually publicity and communication. When doing publicity for such a project, some unique measurements are paramount to be considered. First and foremost, community learning is perceived as a new idea to many people. Therefore, it is important not to work with assumptions or half-truths. Presentations need to be based on what people actually understand about community learning (Decker, Gregg & Decker, 1996, p. 56). One golden rule for such projects is never to overlook anyone or anything, always try to clarify every detail when called upon to do so. From experience one on one interaction tends to yield more compared to utilization of any approach. Research clearly depicts that people put their trust in people’s relationships than in structure or systems. For instance, a parent with a child in a Community learning program is likely to draw other parents to the system than a television advert can do (Decker, Gregg & Decker, 1996, p. 56).

Another element that project managers should address is the fact that most people are likely to be associated with successful products rather than products in pilot projects. As it is now community learning is perceived as a product in testing. Therefore, most people choose to shun away until that time when they shall witness tangible evidence of a successful working Community learning system. To address this challenge the awareness creation team, need to be equipped with strategies such as content mastery and collection of convincing testimonies of successful stories. It is important that such testimonies not be shared just for the sake, but should be done passionately and with the right attitude and with a lot of wisdom (Decker, Gregg & Decker, 1996, p. 56). The person sharing the testimony ought to clearly know the target audience, their background, expectations, things that would easily make them build a defiance mechanism. To achieve this, the presenter requires a lot of practice and confidence.

Decision making

After adequate creation of awareness has been done, it is time to make a decision. This process majorly depends on several factors such as the number of stakeholders and levels of consultation. All the involved parties need to be part of this process. Elimination or overlooking some parties could lead to detrimental effects either now or in the coming days. Experts have developed guidelines that need to be in place when undertaking this vital process. These guidelines include:

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  1. At least 90 percent of the teaching fraternity ought to agree to carry out the project.
  2. The team to coordinate administration ought to agree on the modalities
  3. The team to oversee the activities of the school need to approve it
  4. The association of parents needs to be consulted and their approval noted
  5. The community partners need to approve the project. These include external parties and also social agents, people with no vested interest but whose goal is the social wellbeing of the project
  6. The government official needs to be summoned and relevant documents approved.

Sustaining Community learning

They are several methods that be used in the implementation of learning and teaching in Community learning. Over time the following platforms have been implemented in different areas across the globe and so far, they are recording successful outcomes.

Interactive groups

This is considered to be one of the most radical approaches. Debates are still going on about the homogeneous spirit of the educational form and the best way to organize heterogeneity and diversity within a specific classroom. Frequently these groups act the opposite way commonly known to many. This is because learning is dislocated from the conventional classrooms and rather moved to interactive forums where learners freely share what they know and what they aspire to know (Parson, 1999, p. 55). So the question comes up what is the position of the teacher? Actually, this system acknowledges that no one has a monopoly of knowledge. And what it does to address this problem is the provision of more materials to the groups. The materials can be accessed by learners and teachers at the time they are required (Schlechty, 201, p. 78). Therefore, this lessens the workload of the teacher in that he or she comes to give guidance and clarification where the need is noted.

Family Training

This model has been effective in Community learning. So far very positive responses are coming from partakers of this program. Essential, this is how family training works. Families whether blood-related or otherwise come up with a timetable of when they are available for the purpose of learning. After this has been defined, learning facilities and resources are availed for their use and learning can now take place. This model is extremely exciting for family groups sharing working activities and schedules such as the community of Roma.

Conflict solving models

Conflicts resolution is an approach that is used in community learning to resolve variance in learning approaches. Frequently, students joining the program from other education systems do not experience a smooth transition. This model dictates that learners participate in the programs on equal academic grounds, no matter their academic and cultural difference and origins (Parson, 1999, p. 67). This ensures that some students are not disadvantaged. The development of mutual respect and understanding of each other is paramount to creating confidence and ownership of the learners and of the community at large. Notably, those families usually lacking the zeal and motivation to get involved in their kid’s education are compelled to change their perceptions and attitudes and instead embrace the opportunity of real transformation through participation in Community learning (Schlechty, 2011, p. 34).

The rule of continuous improvement

Similarly, with any other project, the rule of continuous improvement applies even in Community learning. As they say, a satisfied customer comes back with two (Parson, 1999, p. 98). The same principle can be used to enhance the performance and appreciation of Community learning. All the stakeholders need to take account of the progress, embrace the working ideas, correct the failed concepts and introduce new thoughts to boost production.

Conclusion

Although in most countries the idea of Community learning is reckoned as the new kid on the block, this concept is promising to transform education systems. Most experts agree with several studies and analyses of this system indicating that learning communities are a vital unifying aspect of the community as a whole regardless of cultural origins and differences. Critical to note, several additional publicity skills need to be employed in community learning, above the usually publicity and communication. There are several methods of sustaining the growth of learning communities. Some of these methods include investing in interactive groups, family training, resolving conflicts, and continuous improvement of the implemented projects.

References

Decker, L., Gregg, G., & Decker, V. (1996). Teacher’s manual for parent and community involvement. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Gallagher, D., Bagin, D., & Moore, E. (2012). School and community relations. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Schlechty, P. (2011). Leading for Learning: Transforming Schools into leading organisations. CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sergiovanni, T. (2008). Building community in schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Parson, S. (1999). Transforming Schools into Community Learning Centers. New York, NY: Eye On Education Inc.

Transforming Schools Into Learning Communities
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