Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The importance of a model for newcomers

As I was reading on page 156 of Etienne Wenger's Communities of Practice book about negotiating pardigmatic trajectories, and how these can be reified milestones or actual people, it dawned on me that Wenger was talking, in layman's terms, about how people need a model for how to perform, achieve, and become. This is something I believe strongly, and I have written up some research about the importance of modeling in helping preservice teachers as they join the teaching community.

Anyway, in my own community of church youth, I have seen the importance of models. For starters, they will only ask members of the faith that they feel model good conduct to work with the youth, because they want the youth to see good models of grown adults. Also, the youth themselves are models for each other, particularly the older ones. Our scout troop is small, and contains boys of all ages, whereas most troops are only comprised of 12 to 14-year-olds. At scout camp, our troop was remarkably better behaved than all the others and must more productive. Why? Because we have a great 16-year-old Senior Patrol Leader that sets the tone and gives the model, and the other boys fall in line with him, whereas other troops have boys all of the same age, without clear models of older youth for them to follow.

I have also thought that in schools, children would learn more appropriate behavior, and we would see a decline in cliques, bullying, mob behavior, and better learning if the grades were more integrated so that older children worked alongside younger ones. The older kids would provide the model, and it would break up the cliques that occur when you have a bunch of kids of the same age associating together.

I don't know if that would really work, but it just seems logical to me that it could.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Graves' three parts of learning community

I haven't been posting here as much as I should for our class. OK, I haven't posted here at all yet! I'm going to have to come up with some method for reminding myself to do this because it's kind of out of my regular flow of homework, so I need to somehow remind myself to regularly stop and post on this blog and not get lost in simply analyzing the literature.

OK, first to define my learning community that I will observe. In my free time (who has that? :-) I am a scout leader and young men leader for the youth in my local unit of my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). As YM leader, I try to teach the boys religious principles on Sunday, and then we meet on Wednesday nights for youth activities/scout activities. Then we have a monthly campout that I sometimes attend (there are other youth leaders as well). Our youth group is unique because it is composed of two of our church units: A regular English-speaking unit and a Spanish-speaking unit. These two units meet separately on Sundays but combine for youth activities on Wednesday nights. Ironically, I work with the Hispanic youth while Peter and others work with the English-speaking youth (and actually, "English-speaking" is a misnomer because they all speak English. However, the Hispanic parents often do not, which is why we have a separate unit for them to attend on Sundays).

So this learning community has the goals of 1) learning our religion; 2) learning good social, physical, and mental skills to prepare the youth for adult lives. This learning community meets twice a week (Sundays and Wednesdays, with occasional campouts on the weekend). They also see each other occasionally at school, but they attend a lot of different schools.

As leaders we want these youth to feel a sense of community together, that they will support each other, help each other, and that they will have similar goals. Sometimes, I feel this is working very well, and I'm pleased to see how well racial differences haven't kept the youth from getting along well and being friends. However, I also see where a few youth have not felt like strong members of the community, and of course I want to help them integrate into the community more. It is not surprising to me that those youth who are not as integrated in the learning community are not learning or progressing in the Boy Scout or young men program as much.

As I read the literature this semester, I will try to apply it to this learning community because 1) this is a group I really care about and want to succeed, and 2) it's a different type of learning community than I bet many others in the class will be observing, so maybe it will yield different insights!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This blog is being transformed!

As I posted last time, my "official" blog where I do most of my thinking about educational research has been moved to

I LOVE Edublogs. What a great community of educational bloggers!

Speaking of community, I am now in a "Community as a Metaphor for Learning" course with Dr. Julie Moore and Christa .... For this class, we are each maintaining a blog connecting our readings and discussions with our observations and experiences with learning communities. Because I don't want to create a new blog for this purpose (who needs another password and username to remember? :-), I will use this blog for that class.

So from henceforth, this blog is where I will talk about learning communities! But check out my other blog if you are interested. It's good. Really.