Building relationships is essential to success in many situations. In the business world strong relationships help build businesses, revitalize communities and increase revenue. In your personal life positive relationships help to keep you healthy and connected to others. In the educational setting, the value of relationships is no different. Students excel when they have an active support system, when they know that not only are their parents but their teachers and administrators. In the educational setting building relationships is vitally important, students are constantly at risk, their home lives and peer relationship affect the students? performance. Also, the level of interest in the subject matter contributes to student success. Through research regarding building relationships in an educational setting it seems that the approach to combatting this issue is through the creation of Small Learning Communities.
A Small Learning Community (SLC) is a form of school structure that is increasingly common in secondary schools to subdivide large school populations into smaller, independent groups of students and teachers. The main purpose of restructuring secondary schools into SLCs is to create a more personalized learning environment to better meet the needs of students.
Learning communities can provide students with a sense of identity and with connections to faculty, the institution, and knowledge. Even though support for learning communities has been strong, many schools have resisted due to the time and expense it takes to establish them. The article, The Communication Research Team as Learning Community investigates whether a smaller, discipline-specific research team with no funding can be an acceptable alternative to traditional learning communities. In addition, the study investigates some of the theoretical claims of learning communities within the context of the research team (Janusik and Wolvin, 2007).
In this article the benefits of Learning Communities are outlined. According to Janusik and Wolvin (2007) Learning communities develop students who have stronger connections to others and to their school, students are better able to make disciplinary connections, students are more motivated, students are more able to view themselves as co-constructing knowledge, and students are more academically successful. Base much on research conducted, this article determines that students in learning communities make stronger connections with faculty and the staff, because learning communities are designed to promote faculty and students interaction.
In this articles the challenges of Learning Communities is the money and time needed to set-up these types of learning environments. Start-up costs for learning communities include funds for development, advertising, housing, faculty, and staff salaries, recruiting, student activities, and general logistics. This study was prompted by the desire to develop a small learning community without the expense and with minimal time commitment. This article illustrated that by taking a larger lecture style setting and breaking the group into smaller research teams assigning a graduate student to assistant the Professor as advisors helped the students feel more connected and involved and less anonymous and invisible in the crowd. Student success and retention was also up in the research group.
According to the article Small Learning Communities That Actually Learn: Lessons for School Leaders, Creating small communities involves more than just making instructional issues a priority; leaders themselves need a firm knowledge base about how effective instructional communities work ? including some understanding of the types of collegial relationships that sustain them and the kinds of group practices that result in improved teaching and learning (Supovitz, J. & Christman, J., 2005). This article expressed the important of these types of learning communities and how they are beneficial, it examined programs in Philadelphia and Cincinnati and discussed the success of those learning communities. The basic assumption of learning communities is that teachers will get to know their students and respond to their needs better and teachers will have greater opportunities to share practices and create a culture for sustained instructional improvement. Supovitz and Christman (2005) concluded that both programs influenced the school?s environment positively. Teachers expressed that they felt safer in their respective schools and that students seemed more orderly. Also students felt more connected to their learning communities and wanted to ?show respect.? However, neither location showed marked improvements in instructional focus.
Smaller learning communities are focused learning environments within a larger school setting in which a group of teachers and other adults works closely with a particular group of students to meet their needs, monitor their progress, and provide academic support. Smaller learning communities are seen nationwide as one of the ?best practices? in recent years.Small learning communities change the way students and teachers are grouped. They can include academies, schools-within-a-school, or career pathways.
A constantly increasing number of studies show that smaller learning communities has had a positive impact on all students in terms of increasing student participation and engagement, reducing dropout rates, increasing graduation rates and attendance, enhancing academic achievement, and increasing extracurricular participation. This level of success has been reached by reducing the large school into smaller units as well as by reducing teacher student ratios and ?looping? teachers with students so that the group stays together for longer than and year, this helps to foster relationship by giving them the time and space to grow. This type of design helps students experience a greater sense of belonging. Small schools steadily reported increased levels of social support and caring, due to more attentive environment made possible by smaller settings.
Small learning communities positively affect the overall climate of the school. Student achievement increases, attendance improves, teachers are more fulfilled at work and instruction improves because the relationship between student-teacher-administration has changed, it has grown. As a team teacher and student spend more time together working towards a common goal since most small learning communities are themed. Teachers work closer together with one another and are collaborate more to increase the effectiveness of their lessons and in turn they build more trusting professional relationships. Smaller learning communities have a long way to go before their benefits are completely realized but as a method of building relationships in an educational setting its effectiveness has long been realized.
Janusik, L. A., & Wolvin, A. D. (2007). THE COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TEAM AS LEARNING COMMUNITY. Education, 128(2), 169-188. Retrieved on June 19, 2012, from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=12&hid=108&sid=d666ce8c-a5f3-415f-ae62-b2ff9ce61967%40sessionmgr4&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=30096765
Supovitz, J. A., & Christman, J. (2005). Small Learning Communities That Actually Learn: Lessons for School Leaders. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(9), 649-651. Retrieved on June 20, 2012, from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=d666ce8c-a5f3-415f-ae62-b2ff9ce61967%40sessionmgr4&vid=11&hid=10