Magazine article The Learning Professional

As Learning Communities Mature, Collaboration Skills Matter More Than Ever

Magazine article The Learning Professional

As Learning Communities Mature, Collaboration Skills Matter More Than Ever

Article excerpt

Learning communities are moving beyond their adolescent years, and you can see their evolution in education literature, in practice, and in the Standards for Professional Learning.

The earlier Standards for StaffDevelopment (NSDC, 2001) included Collaboration and Learning Communities. Both emphasized the process and structure of learning collaboratively. For example, the 2001 Learning Communities standard stated, "Staffdevelopment that improves the learning of all students organizes adults into learning communities whose goals are aligned with those of the school and district" (NSDC, 2001). The 2011 version states, "Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment" (Learning Forward, 2011).

And yet, even as schools and teams move to enact learning communities more deeply as described in the newer standard, the individuals within those teams are presumed to be working together effectively. That means that those who participate in learning teams, Critical Friends Groups, professional learning communities - wherever they learn intentionally and collaboratively - must still attend to the basics of collaboration. Those leaders and facilitators who create cultures that nurture the communities, even as they push learners to connect student achievement and sustained continuous improvement to the work they do daily in teams, have to keep an eye on how adults work together to ensure that their efforts are productive.

The current Learning Communities standard recognizes this when it states, "Learning community members strive to refine their collaboration, communication, and relationship skills to work within and across both internal and external systems to support student learning. They develop norms of collaboration and relational trust and employ processes and structures that unleash expertise and strengthen capacity to analyze, plan, implement, support, and evaluate their practice" (Learning Forward, 2011). …

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