"Getting Centered—The Evolution of Learning Communities" Chapter Three (Lindsey et al, 2009)
—Barth, 1991, p.128
The above quote from Barth (1991) really captures the essential ideas in chapter three, for in order to make the shift to a truly culturally proficient learning community, the one that Lindsey et al (2009) describe, requires internal change within the school culture and not just a structural change. For some schools, this might involve creating a new identity. To achieve this requires a shared common vision, collaboration, shared decision-making, and commitment to learning. At my own school site, the transition to valuing the power of learning communities, has received more buy-in from staff since we had a change in school leadership for the 2014-2015 school year. Until this time, many of the elements needed to create professional communities, learning were not present.
In terms of supports at my site to create and sustain the above environment, the past year horizontal teams were created and time was set aside for the teams to meet on a regular basis to develop units, collaborate, and look at ways to support struggling students in each curriculum area. Departments were also provided with observation time to observe colleagues. A concern next year is that there is not as much time available due to budget cuts. It will be challenging to find creating ways to invent more time. To sustain the creativity and vitality of a learning community, once it is created, requires shared beliefs, values, and vision, supportive leadership, and conditions. And as I mentioned earlier, this might involve individual change.
Cultural proficient learning communities are now integrated into educational reform efforts to replace traditional practices that focused on blame to practices that take responsibility in meeting the needs of underserved students (p.37). The paradigm of Cultural Proficiency provides a way for educators to focus on relationships between schools, family, and the community in hopes of better meeting the needs of all students, including those traditionally excluded. At my own school site, culturally proficient learning communities are providing a path for staff to develop new strategies to support students. This has required changes in our school climate and culture. We started some of this during the 2014-2015 school year with plans to continue the work next year.
Three Key Lessons:
(1) How educational reforms have evolved to comply with legislation and how the tools of cultural proficiency is providing a way to transform education to better serve students.
(2) Changes within learning communities to coincide with reform efforts and using these communities to transform culture. I was unaware of all of the literature showing the evolution of these communities.
(3) Cultural Proficiency might offer a framework to meet past challenges learning communities have faced, such as building trust, moving from isolation to collaboration, and the willingness to embrace change that is not just structural but internal.
Three Key Quotes:
(1) “Our moral imperative is knowing and responding to the cognitive and social needs of all children, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of those who have not been served well in the past” (p.37).
(2) “What is new today is the inclusion of historically underserved students in unprecedented ways” (p.38).
(3) “When teachers, administrators, counselors, and other community members express these values and beliefs, a common vision and clearly stated mission are more likely to become a reality for the community” (p.45).
Three Key Questions:
(1) How do schools create buy-in for stakeholders to embrace the power of learning communities?
(2) What supports do administrators need to put into place to build capacity and sustain changes that are being implemented?
(3) Education reforms are often slow and are already out-of-date by the time they are implemented. Will Cultural Proficiency offer a true educational transformation, one that is sustainable over time?
As a World History teacher and a student of history, the chapter on “Getting Centered: The Evolution of Learning Communities” was interesting to me to see how learning communities have evolved over time and have intersected with educational reform movements. My “Aha!” was that Cultural Proficiency is becoming a model for future educational transformational. As a former political scientist who did an M.A. thesis that explored cultural paradigms and the ability of groups to construct new identities, I think this might be a move in the right direction in terms of its ability to provide a framework for educational reform. What is perhaps needed are additional resources and supports for educators to embark on this journey.