The learning communities are a transformation project of educational centers aimed at overcoming school failure and the elimination of conflicts. This project is distinguished by a commitment to dialogical learning through interactive groups, where equal dialogue becomes a common effort to achieve educational equality for all students.
From what we have said, we can say that we are talking about transformation because, its implementation implies a change that affects not only the educational center, but also the closest social environment.
In addition, this transformation pursues a dream, which is the school that everyone wants to achieve. Therefore, the participation and joint collaboration of all the people involved is needed.
The learning communities opt for participation, interactive groups and dialogical learning.
All are applicable to all educational centers. Not only in disadvantaged areas or areas that represent a high percentage of students belonging to ethnic minorities or who are in conditions of poverty or inequality.
It is also demonstrated, through studies carried out in the previous programs to the Learning Communities (School Development Program, Adult Education Center of Verneda-San Martí, Accelerated Schools and Success for All or School success for all / as), that the best way to get rid of the negative dynamics in which these schools are involved, is to take the school to the neighborhood, normalize the situation.
What is dialogical learning? And the interactive groups?
These two concepts have been investigated on numerous occasions by the Special Center for Research on Theories and Practices that Overcome Inequalities (CREA), (Casamitijana, Soler and Tortajada, 2002) through numerous studies based on educational theories and practices. The dialogical learning according to Elboj, Puigdellívol and others (2002) “is understood as the result of the interactions that originate the egalitarian dialogue in order to reach a consensus”.
But how would this move to the classroom? It could translate into the need to establish a dialogue between the students themselves, of these with the teachers, families and the rest of the people who participate in the center, so that the organization learns.
This dialogue so that benefits must be equal, horizontal, where all participants are on equal terms. It seeks to enhance learning, so it can be applied from childhood to high school.
Principles of Learning
The principles of the Dialogic Learning according to Puigvert (1999) are:
- Perform an egalitarian dialogue without impositions or differences of power.
- In addition to training for the use of language in all its contexts, you must seek to develop an intelligence that integrates academic and practical aspects.
- The participants must transform.
- You must work on the concepts from the critic.
- This interactive dialogue aims to create meaning for people.
- It always starts from the beginning of solidarity.
- Equality of differences.
By putting dialogical learning into practice, problems can arise such as the amount of time that has to be allocated to plan and design each activity. In addition, the faculty that applies it in their classroom must be a person that is formed in a multitude of concepts and knowledge.
He must also be trained in techniques that favor group work in order to direct the dialogue. Another difficulty could be not reaching an agreement on a certain topic.
Dialogical learning could not be achieved without interactive groups. Interactive groups are understood according to CREA (1999) as “the heterogeneous grouping of students to work a previously designed activity under the supervision of an adult, which can be a parent, relative, former student, another teacher, a university student, etc. “
The formation of the groups is flexible, because the idea is that they are as heterogeneous as possible. The interactive groups could be considered as a classroom organization different from the traditional one. The role of the teacher is to dynamize the work that is being done in the groups.
The main characteristics of the interactive groups according to De la Rosa and others (2002) are:
- Knowledge is built among all the participants through a cooperative and active methodology among equals. This makes the learning of a particular subject more motivating than with traditional methodologies.
- In addition to reinforcing the figure of the teacher with the support of external personnel, the time and space are flexibilized, thus optimizing the available resources.
- Given that there is greater communication and interaction among the participants, the objectives and activities that must be achieved are common.
- The learning process is group and individual. Thanks to this practice, students can be empowered to be critical, participate and even be creative.
How do you work in a classroom in Learning Communities?
Once we have presented the theoretical foundations of the Learning Communities (dialogical learning and interactive groups), we will see how it is put into practice in the classroom.
The class is divided into several groups taking into account that students have to be as heterogeneous as possible in knowledge as well as in sex and social class.
Depending on the type of activity or educational stage we will make groups of between three and six students. In addition to the children there will also be an adult who can be a teacher or a volunteer who can be a university student or a family member etc. (CREA, 1999).
The theme is the same for the whole group, each one concentrating on a specific theme of the main theme that is being worked on. Each group will work on these small topics during a specific time, about 20 minutes.
When the time ends, the children should rotate while the teacher or volunteer who is at that table, stays there to attend the next group that arrives and perform the same activity.
The work of these adults is to ensure that the interactions are done well so they can learn. Children who have more knowledge about the topics help those who have less and also reinforce their learning. These explanations can be even more clarifying than those of an adult.
How are schools transformed into Learning Communities?
At present there are many schools that have been transformed into learning communities such as the CEIP Andalusia or the CEIP Adriano del Valle of the city of Seville.
For a center to become learning communities, it has to follow the following phases according to Learning (2005):
- Awareness phase . In this first phase the entire educational community is informed of the principles that constitute this project. In addition, it also reflects on educational needs, success models, etc.
- Decision making . In this second phase, the center decides whether or not it wants to start the transformation process. For this, it has to meet a series of requirements: it must be approved by the association of parents of students (AMPA), it must be approved by the school council and the majority of the faculty must agree.
- Phase of the dream . In this stage, the center that would like to have in the neighborhood among all the members of the educational community was thought.
- Selection of priorities . Here an analysis of the context where the center is located is carried out to later select the priorities.
- Planning . Then, an action plan is drawn up of those aspects that have previously been seen as needing to be changed, which is why we work hand-in-hand with the different agents of the educational community.
- Commissioning . Start-up of all those actions that have been planned previously in the form of “experiment”. In this phase there will be a meeting and evaluation point at all levels where it is being carried out.
What is the role of families in Learning Communities?
Before putting this project into practice, the participation of families in schools was very low, since in most cases, communicative acts between teachers and families, between the school and the community, were communicative acts of power.
Traditionally, the activities and projects of the center have been planned without the voice of the families, knowing before deciding to speak with them, the decision that was to be made.
However, in the learning communities, when families participate in this project, by giving them a place as volunteers in the interactive groups and in the transformation process of the school, this type of communicative acts has been changed to another type, the dialogical.
In this way the school is more inclusive and has higher quality, as it allows the participation of families and volunteers that will make the students learn more (Flecha, 2009).
In this way, families can participate and be part of the process designing activities that improve student learning. In addition they can also be trained in the subjects they want because the duty of the teachers is to help them.
Because of this change and the activities that are being carried out from the learning communities for the relatives, the participation of the families in the centers has increased considerably.
The Learning Communities, have marked a before and after in the idea that we had school. That school, in which adults could not enter and that was totally disconnected from their environment.
Thanks to projects like this, we can see how the school has been transformed, thus opening its doors to family members as well as to different professionals and volunteers, since this project could not be carried out without them.
Due to classroom organizations such as interactive groups, both the adults in charge of each group and the children can contribute their ideas and discover together the answers to a lesson, since as mentioned both the relatives and the volunteers who participate do not They have to know it.
Also Read: What is Vicarious Learning?
This favors the creation of expectations both among the students themselves and among adults, as well as the emergence of a learning climate that encourages everyone to excel and learn.