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Learning Communi ties in Classrooms



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Learni ng Communi ti es i n Cl assrooms A Reconceptual i zati on of Educati onal Practi ce Katerine Bielaczyc Boston College OISE University of Toronto Allan Collins Northwestern University Boston College From C M Reigeluth Ed Instructional design theories and models Vol II M ahw ah N J Law rence Erlbaum A ssociates I ntroducti on In recent years in A merica there has developed a learning communities approach to education In a learning community the goal is to advance the collective know ledge and in that w ay to support the grow th of individual know ledge Scardamalia Bereiter 1994 The defining quality of a learning community is that there is a culture of learning in w hich everyone is involved in a collective effort of understanding There are four characteristics that such a culture must have 1 diversity of expertise among its members w ho are valued for their contributions and given support to develop 2 a shared objective of continually advancing the collective know ledge and skills 3 an emphasis on learning how to learn and 4 mechanisms for sharing w hat is learned If a learning community is presented w ith a problem then the learning community can bring its collective know ledge to bear on the problem It is not necessary that each member assimilate everything that the community know s but each should know w ho w ithin the community has relevant expertise to address any problem This is a radical departure from the traditional view of schooling w ith its emphasis on individual know ledge and performance and the expectation that students w ill acquire the same body of know ledge at the same time Why Learni ng Communi ti es A s the w orld becomes more complex students find themselves unprepared for the challenges both personal and social The new demands that society is placing on young people are reflected in a w ide variety of reports on education such as the U S Department of Labor s SCA N S report 1991 and a recent book by M urnane and Levy 1996 w hich address



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