Learning Communities

Basic Goals Learning communities are groups of people working together with a common mission centered on student learning. Three goals are common to all learning communities:
  1. Student learning is the focus - effective teaching is only the method;
  2. Collaboration is central to improving learning;
  3. Effectiveness is based on results - improving student achievement.
Richard DuFour advocates supporting a change in culture within institutions of education, changes that foster meaningful collaboration (see his article Schools as Learning Communities).   A West Geauga High School Learning Community in Action at a Primary Headwater Habitat, Hiram, Ohio Photo: Holly M. Wells   The "Igniting Streams" Learning Community Concept The Igniting Streams of Learning in Science Academy is centered on collaborative sustainable efforts to attract and retain the most academically capable high school students from the Cuyahoga Watershed to careers in teaching and research in STEM subjects by immersing students, and their teachers, in a 10 month STEM academy which includes an 8 day summer institute. The program utilizes best practices in science education while igniting interest and commitment through extension of these practices to successful local examples of STEM applications, such as the miraculous recovery of the Cuyahoga River. This link to LC's in action gives reason for full investment, because it is very clear from past work that LC's really are effective, and it is up to the students to make sure they continue to be effective for the next generation.   Image by Jeffrey Pellegrino Diagram of an ISLS Learning Community - Central Core 1 high school teacher 5 high school students 1 undergraduate teaching assistant Surround Support University faculty learning University faculty science University faculty technology Project Directors IT Staff Graduate assistant learning Graduate assistant science Graduate assistant technology Our learning communites are innovative in that they are collaborations of all stakeholders who have an interest in improving education in STEM careers - including teaching STEM subjects. The central core of the learning community (represented in blue in the figure above) includes a high school teacher, an undergradute science major and five high school students. We believe that by including high school and college students in the development and implementation of curricular materials, we will be fostering a collaboration between students and teachers that will improve student learning through feedback from students at all stages of curriculum design. The core community will be assisted by others with diverse experiences that can enhance student learning (represented by the outer circule) including: undergraduates and faculty with expertise in ecology, environmental studies, education and technology; IT staff; the three ISLS directors; graduate teaching assistants with expertise in science education, assessment, and technology; outside resource personnel from government agencies and private industry; and other key indivduals invited to participate by the central core learning communities themselves.