Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

Comparing Learning Community Practices

By Learning Forward — July 11, 2012 2 min read

The concept of learning communities is at the core of effective professional learning. Learning communities provide the structure for ongoing collaboration, set the stage for deep inquiry and problem solving, and promote collective responsibility and goal alignment among educators. Learning Forward promotes the Learning Communities standard as one of the essential conditions for increasing educator effectiveness and results for all students.

As I reflected on the importance of learning communities in supporting continuous improvement and system change, I thought about how these same principles and beliefs are embedded in the work of other professions and in other sectors.

Lee Shulman -- best known for research and insights on pedagogical content knowledge -- has written about “signature pedagogies” and how they have developed across different professions. Students in medicine, law, engineering, and business experience learning in distinct and recognizable models: engaging in clinical rounds in medical school, experimenting and iterating in engineering design studios, responding to Socratic questioning in law school, and delving into a variety of case studies in business school. But beyond this professional preparation, these professionals engage in practices and learning that reflect core elements of learning communities.

The medical rounds process includes attending physicians, residents, interns, and medical students. Laura Snydman, a physician at Tufts Medical Center, describes a daily work rounds process that models communication and exam skills for medical students and enables all participants to engage in clinical reasoning, problem solve together, and discuss how and why certain decisions were made based on available patient data.

In the design world, teams work together to brainstorm and generate new ideas for products, but also use a process to make sure that new ideas are aligned with the project’s overall goals. Producer Julie Kim describes a collaborative planning process where goals and principles are prioritized at the beginning of a project and used as benchmarks throughout the often-ambiguous design process. By creating ample time to discuss and propose new ideas, team members are less likely to succumb to groupthink and are held accountable to the project’s overall goals and principles.

What is the significance of having shared principles and practices for professional learning across sectors? The strategies employed in other sectors might have lessons for educators and vice versa. For example, knowledge management strategies used in the private sector could inform how information about student learning could be shared among teachers, specialists, and administrators. These shared beliefs about teams and learning present an opportunity to garner support for effective professional learning from the broader public. If we expect educators to improve their practice, we must provide the same time, resources, and opportunities for deep learning that we have come to expect in other professions. Only then can we expect to improve performance and produce results for all students.

Kenneth Salim
President, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read