Thoughts on Learning Communities & Support

David Wedaman at Brandeis has a couple of thoughtful posts up at his blog Theatrical Smoke. I’m very happy to be working with him and Gail Matthews-DeNatale on a poster presentation at next month’s EDUCAUSE Learning Initiatives conference.

Take a look at his posts:

Your community will learn its way forward.

It’s people stuff, it’s faith, it’s risk, it’s scary, it’s trust, it’s vulnerability, it’s Negative Capability, it’s relationship-building, it’s engagement on an ideas plane, it’s meaningful personal and community development. It’s perhaps the opposite of everything we’ve ever done. It’s perhaps everything we’ve consciously and subconsciously veered away from and protected ourselves from and eschewed and avoided and bemoaned.

That is, make sure your classrooms are safe learning spaces, OK. But then make your institution be one, too. The art of teaching being sufficiently amazingly complex and wonderful, people doing it might need to grow better at it, that is, be able to continually learn about it. And that if we want them to do that, we need to give them a group, and a safe space. And let them make some agreements. And let their feedback feed back. Etc.

We might sometimes think of the teacher as an established professional incapable of further development, a fixed cog, as we kind of do for grown-ups in general, and we when we do that we might not really go out of our way to give them the very things we would work so hard to give other learners in the very same institution. Though we should. Teachers need a class, too, I suggest. A long-term, on-going, opt-in, safe place for them to continually learn and adjust their teaching. And say naive things like, “Are grades THAT important?” This idea–of a learning community for teachers–is of course self-evident to many. But I suggest perhaps not as self-evident as it could be.