Thursday, June 01, 2006

Singapore teachers form learning communities

When I think of learning communities, usually an image of young students and their wise teachers pops into my head -- something like the tv shows Room 222 or Welcome Back, Kotter. But learning communities also can consist entirely of adults who want to become smarter together, as "life-long learners." Educators in Singapore are embracing that concept, actively nurturing learning communities in an effort to support and expand their expertise as teachers.

According to Channel NewsAsia, "There are some 1,000 learning communities in [Singapore] schools today, up from just 8 in 1998. These are informal groups of teachers who gather to exchange ideas on how to improve themselves." This is movement supported by the nation's Ministry of Education, which is hosting its 3rd annual Teachers' Conference from May 31 to June 2.

Speaking at the opening session of the conference, Singapore's Education Minister Tharman Sanmugaratnam highlighted the concept of teacher Learning Circles, noting that Learning Circles provide teachers with "a safe and reassuring environment to engage in open, reflective dialogue and inquiry into their concerns about teaching and learning. He went on to say that:

Learning Circles have the added benefit of being ground-up and organic, not top-down. It brings flexibility. There can be as many Learning Circles as there are interested and willing groups of practitioners. Groups can form, close down or re-form, as issues of interest change and as problems are solved and new opportunities identified. And extensive use of Learning Circles gives teachers the sense of autonomy - to go ahead and improve practices and try out new things.

Teachers teaching -- and learning from -- teachers. That's cool, and I know it's happening at the Jakarta International School. Does the concept have further applications, perhaps with parents?


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