The Importance of Building a Community of Learners

Building a Community of learners

The start of the 2020-2021 school year comes with numerous challenges that could make even the most experienced educators apprehensive about their ability to effectively meet student needs. Ensuring that learners are still able to achieve educational goals and stay on pace for various benchmarks is a foremost concern for many schools, but there’s another essential consideration ahead.

Given the wide variety of classroom changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, how can teachers continue to provide their students with the sense of community they need in order to be successful in school and throughout their lives?

Unlike last school year, during which districts throughout the country saw their facilities suddenly shuddered in the springtime, students are entering an educational environment this fall that’s already worlds apart from what they’ve previously known. Virtual learning, blended models, and in-person instruction with new social distancing features all present fresh challenges for teachers who want to create a cohesive community of learners.

But the potential benefits of connectedness are definitely worth their efforts. That’s why building community is at the heart of the TCI Approach.

What is the TCI Approach?

The TCI Approach was developed by teachers who sought to combine what they had learned from classroom experience with the accepted wisdom of educational theory and research. From years of working with students, these teachers observed that when students are active, they stay focused, are more motivated, and learn better. 

Because of these findings, active learning formed an essential component of this emerging approach. The teachers added ideas drawn from:

  • Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.
  • Elizabeth Cohen’s research on cooperative group work.
  • Jerome Bruner’s spiral curriculum.
  • Grant Wiggins’ and Jay McTighe’s understanding by design. 
  • Robert Marzano’s nonlinguistic representation.

Educational theory contributed to the five key premises behind the TCI Approach. 

  1. Students learn best through multiple intelligences. 
  2. Cooperative interaction increases learning.
  3. All students can learn via the spiral curriculum.
  4. Students benefit from having explicit learning goals.
  5. Learning is optimized when linguistic and nonlinguistic experiences are valued equally.

No matter what your learning model is, create a cooperative, tolerant classroom

The TCI Approach places an important emphasis on developing a classroom environment that is nurturing and accepting of differences.

To ensure your students are aware of these standards, have a direct conversation about behavioral expectations in your classroom, whether it’s facilitated through online meetings or an in-person environment. Emphasize that all members of the community must:

  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Use kind words and actions.
  • Do everything they can to help themselves and others learn.

Also, take this as an opportunity to teach cooperative skills. There are 10 skills students should exhibit when working in groups. Whether you are using a virtual or blended model, you can demonstrate these cooperative skills with your students. Feel free to change some of these to suit your needs or use them all as is. 

These are the 10 skills we recommend in our Bring Learning Alive!methods book.

  1. Break tension and be friendly.
  2. Learn and use names.
  3. Arrange desks and group work properly.
  4. Use positive body language.
  5. Be aware of eye contact.
  6. Listen to others and take turns giving ideas.
  7. Use positive comments, encourage, and express appreciation.
  8. Be helpful and assist each other.
  9. Disagree in an agreeable way.
  10. Stay on task.