Cre­at­ing Learn­ing Com­mu­ni­ties, In­creas­ing Stu­dent Achieve­ment

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Education Supplement - Se­tiono Sugi­harto Con­trib­u­tor The writer teaches at the School of Ed­u­ca­tion and Lan­guage, Atma Jaya Catholic Univer­sity, Jakarta. He can be reached at se­tiono.sugi­

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.

Teach­ers’ per­for­mance

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.

JP/Aman Rochman

JP/Wahyoe Boedi­ward­hana

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