Creating Learning Communities, Increasing Student Achievement
At all levels of education, nurturing intellectual curiosity is the key educational program to sustain. While this is, no doubt, important for increasing student achievement, educational institutions need to broaden their vision to focus not only on academic achievement, but also on other non-academic potentials inherent in the individual student.
Students may have hidden gifts for doing gymnastics, playing a musical instrument, singing, drawing, reciting poetry or performing plays, to mention just a few. Thus, any educational policies and programs for improving the education system ought to consider other potentials beside students’ academic capacity.
To help students unearth their real potential, educational institutions need to create a supportive learning community where individual students have ample opportunity to show off their true potentials and gifts, to continually expand their capacities as creative beings, to express and voice their aspirations and to learn to collaborate with their peers and teachers.
Students’ achievement in both academic and non-academic potentials will increase if the students are given trust and responsibility by their supportive learning community to value themselves and their potentials.
In fact, there is evidence that a supportive learning community positively affects students’ academic success, their test score, motivation and attitude toward learning. Moreover, it has been claimed to have a good impact on students’ social, ethical and emotional development.
However, creating a supportive learning community that facilitates student achievement entails that schools enforce a culture of inclusiveness perceiving that each individual student brings with them a unique way of seeing things, thinking, behaving and interacting. This school culture embodies a belief system that values students as creative human beings who are constantly evolving intellectually, emotionally and socially.
It also sees learning as a dialogic, not a monologic, process between those engaged in the learning communities, suggesting that learning does not occur in a vacuum, but is embedded within the social dynamic. This means that students can freely exchange their own experiences with others, experiment with their own ways of learning and voice ideas using their own perspectives.
Thus, learning is not a matter of transferring knowledge and skills, but a process of assisting them to find their unique potentials, and eventually of transforming them into an individual with the desired qualities.
Realizing a vision of increasing student achievement through a supportive learning community certainly involves multiple facets. Suffice it to mention that here this is a professional development program.
This program aims at improving overall school performance, the quality of classroom instruction, curricular content, teachers’ performance and assessment. These are all crucial components that determine the success and failure of students in their efforts to attain accomplishments in school.
To support excellent educational programs, schools of course need to improve their performance. Without improvement in performance, schools are less likely to help create quality instruction and a supportive learning community, and will eventually fall short in their attempt to increase student achievement.
By the same token, effective classroom instruction is useful for raising students’ awareness of the importance of unearthing their talents. Likewise, curricula designed by accommodating the needs of students are far more efficient than those designed in a top-down fashion.
Teachers’ performance is another crucial component in professional development. Teachers play a key role in increasing student achievement, and it is for this reason that their performance needs to be continually evaluated and improved. Exhorting teachers to take part in workshops and seminars is one common way of improving their professionalism.
Lastly, professional development programs must include an assessment system used to monitor the effectiveness of instruction, as well as to measure the extent to which a student has successfully achieved the instructional objectives determined prior to the instructional program.
Based on the assumption that students may have and develop so-called “multiple intelligence”, measurement systems need to employ multiple measures rather than rely solely on traditional measure like tests. The idea of performance-based or project-based assessment has been suggested as the most suitable type of assessment in measuring varied potentials ( both academic and nonacademic) in students.
It is clear that the creation of a supportive learning community coupled with a planned, comprehensive, ongoing and sustainable professional development program provides a path for teachers to increase their students’ achievement.