Networks as Learning Communities: Shaping the Future of Teacher Development

In many schools, both K-12 and higher education, there is a no expectation for active participation and organizational support as a critical part of the school environment.  Whereas networks are sensitive to the notion that building a sense of community through the creation of collaborative groups is an essential component for the development of a successful learning environment.

In her article, Lieberman highlights the power of teacher learning networks, reminding us about the energy that is created when a group of committed, trusting, and collaborative individuals are focused on common goals.  She proclaims that the National Writing Project “is perhaps the most successful national teacher network”.

NWP sites repeat, summer after summer, an experience for teachers that promotes continuous teacher learning, the development of self-confidence, and an feeling of belonging through the establishment of community.  Lieberman outlines the ability of NWP to be sensitive to diversity, understanding the differences between urban, rural and suburban schools and the networks’ ability to “both build and sustain the concept of community”.

The continuity factor that is so deeply ingrained in the model of the National Writing Project is an important component in the development of teacher leaders within the field of education.  The connections formed within the network provide opportunity for ongoing, sustained professional development which engage teachers in the process of improving programs and practices.
Quotes I like:

p. 222
Professional community meant that teachers pursued a clear and shared purpose for all student learning, engaged in collaborative activity to achieve that purpose and took collective responsibility for their students’ learning.

p. 222
began to see that teachers who took risks and were continually inventing ways of working with their students were, at the same time developing a positive learning community with their peers and creating norms of openness and colleagueship.

They were rethinking change, engaging students and sharing what they were doing with each other as well as supporting each other in their learning.

p. 222
Networks have become a significant force for teacher development and school change.

p. 223
Keeping  a balance between inside knowledge (the experiential knowledge of teachers) and outside knowledge (knowledge created by research and conceptualization is a hallmark of successful collaboratives.

p. 224
Teachers come to feel that they belong to a community that cares for them as people and as colleagues and that shares their passionate concerns for the success of their students.

p. 225
It was apparent from our observations and interviews that the support teachers had found and continued to enjoy int he NWP had renewed their excitement about teaching, contributing significantly to their connection to their students and to their effectiveness as classroom teachers.

p. 226
The failure of traditional professional development for teachers has been well documented (Little, 1993) Teachers have been considered as passive receivers of prescriptive programs, given little time or incentive to integrate these new programs into their classroom practice.  Networks, in contrast, involve their members in a variety of activities that reflect the purposes and changing needs of their participants.

p. 226
Teachers become members of a community where they are valued as partners and colleagues, participants in an ongoing effort to better the learning process for themselves and their students.

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