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Best Practices: Building a Community of Learners

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this administrator tip from High-Impact Leadership for High-Impact Schools: The Actions That Matter Most, by Pamela Salazar. This article discusses how school leaders can build a strong learning-focused environment in their district or school.

Strong learning-focused communities offer professional support and provide learning opportunities and mutual accountability for improving instruction. Principals must build a work culture that promotes collaboration, knowledge sharing and collective responsibility for improving teaching and learning.

High-Impact Leaders Ask:

  1. When do teachers come together to talk about teaching and learning?
  2. What are the expectations for teachers to continue their professional development?
  3. Have we established a culture of questioning and inquiry?
  4. Is professional development site-specific and aligned with the needs assessment and goals of the school?
  5. Do teachers use assessment results to drive instructional decisions on an ongoing basis?
  6. Do teachers have opportunities for looking at student work?
  7. Do we see ourselves as a community of learners that can continuously improve through collaboration, assessment of results, and reflection?

A high-impact school is a community of practice in which learning, experimentation, and reflection are the norm. There is a sense of common purpose based on a collective understanding of the community served by the school and the staff’s capacity to work together toward this common purpose. Everyone works together to assure that diverse voices and beliefs are heard and that consensus truly results in what is good for the whole school and every student.

High-impact schools are professional learning communities engaged in assessing and improving instructional practice. These schools are equipped to meet the needs of individual students and to accelerate the pace of learning. They do this through a high level of communication about a variety of issues after establishing opportunities for collaboration. These schools value the exploration and improvement of teaching. They recognize and support innovative efforts that contribute to creating a positive climate and culture in the school. Collaborative work forms the backbone for developing an aligned educational experience and expands a school’s vision and boundaries by involving more people in essential processes related to student achievement and school improvement.

High-impact leaders are proactive. They build a supportive learning environment that is healthy and intellectually stimulating. They create an environment characterized by a high level of professional practice paired with a high level of student engagement in the construction of new knowledge. Students feel respected and connected and they are engaged in learning. Instruction is personalized to increase student contact with teachers. Professional development supports collaboration and collegial accountability.

The high-impact school dedicates itself to developing everyone’s potential talents, centering its attention on learning. It continuously seeks more effective ways to enhance student achievement through careful design and evaluation of programs, teaching and learning environments. The school and staff both demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to organizational and personal learning as the route to continuous improvement. Seeing itself as a community of learners that can continuously improve through collaboration, assessment of results and reflection, the school designs practical means for gauging its students’ and its own progress toward clearly identified goals.

 

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Copyright © 2013 Education World

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