The best schools are learning communities

When the selection process for primary schools ended last week, the buck was passed to parents and other benefactors.

They have been running up and down and they will continue for the next two weeks as they try to place their children into different schools.

Parents whose children were sent to schools far away from their homes, have an uphill task ahead of them. They either have to take up the places or find vacancies in suitable schools in their neighborhoods.

Parents need to put in mind that good schools are not necessarily the most magnificent in the capital city of Rwanda or the most popular. Evidently, many big school names were missing in the ranking of schools in the 2010 ‘O’ level results.

A good school is one that is a community and possesses a strong and professional administration as well as a highly qualified and motivated teaching staff. The most successful education institutions have negligible or no staff turnover and a strong sense of collective responsibility.
Schools that have transformed themselves into learning communities achieve more because all members feel part and parcel of the institution.

There are various ways of turning a school into a learning community. First, teachers should learn from each other. Watching each other teach helps to provide concrete examples of effective practices and expands the repertoire of skills of the observing teachers. As a result, analytical thinking on teaching techniques is stimulated.
Teaching staff can collectively study their student’s performance to identify weaknesses and plan new ways of dealing with these flaws.

This increases the quality and quantity of insights into student performance and focuses efforts on ‘the bottom line’- student learning. It also increases professionalism and the self esteem of learning community members.
Sharing articles, books and other professional resources for ideas and insight is important because it expands the pool of ideas and resources available to teachers.

Teaching staff should also form a habit of talking with one another about their teaching methods and the results produced. This builds stronger work and professional ethics, reduces isolation, and improves experimentation and analysis of teaching practices.

Additionally, confidence among the teachers is increased and a greater access to a range of teaching styles, models and philosophies is provided.
Collective decision making produces collective action. It improves the quality of instruction, student performance and school operations.

The author is the Director of Studies at Nu Vision High School,

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