Learning in Community benefits

A page within Professional Studies in Education

Learning in community

Community learning is based on the belief that experienced teachers can learn from each other as well as from instructors or facilitators. That is why "learning in community" is the first curricular strand in our Master of Education-Professional Development curriculum. When all members of a community of professional educators bring their collective knowledge and experience together, the possibilities for learning become infinite. This cultivates a richer learning experience than the prescriptive model that depends on one individual to dispense knowledge on a particular subject. This doesn’t diminish the role of individual expertise, rather, it invites all learners to become engaged and bring their collective knowledge and wisdom together to magnify the learning experience. The art of applying educational pedagogy in classroom situations has countless variables and nuances. The learning community environment accelerates participants’ learning curve and allows teachers to compare experiences with colleagues. Community members get valuable feedback and recommendations that help them adapt their own style to be more effective in reaching all students. The ultimate power of learning in community is the relationships that are built, which create a lifelong network of professional support for your teaching practice. 

"What is unique to this program is that there is a curriculum, but much of the content exploration is driven by the wants and needs of the learners. There is not a weekend that goes by that where there are not several relevant and timely learning experiences that can be implemented on Monday morning." -Amy Stoeckly 

"The needs and strengths of each community is assessed and revisited in order to customize the curriculum delivery to that group." -Sarah Dixen 

"Learning in community is philosophically structured to engender collaboration and equity among community members. Often community members gather in large or small circle groups where care is taken so that participants can literally see eye-to-eye within the construct of the circular gathering. Circular community gathering flows through all aspects of the program from administrative meetings to faculty development retreats, community weekend gatherings, and ultimately back into schools and classrooms where students in our program teach." -Margie Hylkema 

"The Learning in Community philosophy believes in the power of the shared learning experience. Community members take and share experiences and are always actively involved in learning. Participants shape and enrich the learning experience through active participation. When you have a diverse group of learners everyone’s understanding is enriched by the successes and failure of each of the members. This is not something that happens in a traditional college setting. It breaks down the traditional teaching paradigm. It encourages collaboration and working together to solve problems and improve one’s practice." -Billie Finco

When you teach, you have a responsibility to think about what you did and how well it worked. How effective was the lesson and what could you do to make it better? Master teachers don't just put their curriculum back in the drawer and take it out the next year to do the same thing all over. They see the practice of teaching as one of continuous improvement, a process defined by the acts of analysis, goal-setting and reflection. Such teachers are driven to extend the learning of each and every student that they meet. 

So when you begin your master’s program, you will be asked to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and then focus your learning to improve your practice. This makes your learning experience more relevant and more meaningful because you have set the priorities and established the goals. You will be measuring your success and concentrating your efforts in a way that is unique to who you are as a teacher. What did they learn and grasp and what did they not learn? What do I need to do to improve the connection and retention of the material? 

"During the time that I was enrolled in a ME-PD Learning Community I happened to be teaching in a school that desperately needed curriculum and assessment developed for my content area. It was an immediate and real need for my students, my school, and my district. I was able to tailor my graduate studies to meet this need directly and have real-world positive impact on my students. I was also able to strengthen my professional expertise in curriculum and assessment for my content area. There were no limits to the research and resources from which I could draw to accomplish this." -Margie Hylkema 

"Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until you are exposed to a plethora of new ideas, philosophies and techniques that other educators use." -Sarah Dixen

Action research is the process of studying the effectiveness of what you do in your classroom. The first step is to identify an area of your practice that needs to improve. Next, you create a thoughtful plan that is likely to have an impact on that area and put it into action. The final step is to measure the effectiveness of your plan and determine what to do with your results. Action research becomes a cycle you will use throughout the rest of your career as you refine and perfect your teaching effectiveness. Action research helps you create a continuous cycle of improvement. Action research is the final project in this master’s journey. The action research study allows each teacher to explore literature and then implement a new strategy into their class. 

"This truly is a transformational process where teachers implement and collect data to measure the impact and influence they can have on student success." -Amy Stoeckly 

"Action research is what separates the master teacher from the novice. The best teachers have always looked for evidence that their teaching strategies are effective. These teachers approach teaching as inquiry and are engaged in a continuous process of asking questions, trying new approaches, gathering evidence and then reflecting on what they have learned."-Billie Finco 

"I like to put the faces of students on Action Research –Students in real world educational settings are frequently the participants and beneficiaries of action research - a method where teachers examine their teaching practice, collect data, measure results and adjust their teaching to improve what they do so children can learn effectively and succeed academically." -Margie Hylkema

The Learning Community program will allow you to examine your practice through the lens of teacher leadership, technology, and all of the other strands of curriculum. These strands are all connected to each other with the ultimate goal of weaving them into an integrated whole known as effective teaching. Each semester builds on your previous learning in each strand. Through reflection and discussion you will discover how each of these individual strands fit together into the tapestry of your classroom practice. This comprehensive understanding of the material will make your learning more practical, productive, and prolific. 

"My application of integrated curriculum (spiraled and scaffolded) as practiced in Learning Community helps me to close the gap between core subject areas and special subjects like art, which I teach. Core and special subject area teachers don’t often get to work or plan together. I no longer let that stand in the way of constantly seeking holistic learning opportunities so that art does not exist separately from deepening understanding in math, science, reading…" -Margie Hylkema

You will be exposed to new cutting edge teaching methods that have been proven effective through research. As a practicing teacher, you will be asked to put many of these ideas immediately into practice in your classroom so you can share and learn from the experience in your community. This immediate application improves retention and helps you break away from old teaching strategies and establish more effective habits in your practice. It also allows you to gain insight on how these practices might best be adapted to your personal style and teaching environment. Immediate application makes everything you learn seem much more connected and relevant to tomorrow's classroom. The immediate feedback and support of your learning community is one more ingredient that makes positive and lasting change increasingly easier to achieve. 

"As an art teacher responsible for instruction of over 500 art students every year I wanted a dynamic and rock solid art program that excited learners and was embraced by the school and larger community. In particular, I wanted to engage students in authentic assessment of their art work – a traditionally murky area in art education. By applying what I gained through my experience in my Learning Community I was able to develop a powerful art education assessment strategy that incorporated self and peer assessment and culminated in many “mini art openings” to which family members, school and community members were always invited. These events were celebratory and offered the most authentic assessment for an artist possible – scrutiny by a public audience! Students could not only gain a vocabulary for speaking about their art – they could defend it and engage in intelligent conversations about it with outside viewers." -Margie Hylkema

State and national teaching standards were created in order to help identify and clarify the qualities of effective teachers. Unfortunately, few teachers have an opportunity to examine these standards in depth or establish a plan using the standards as a guide for their own individual growth. The Learning Community program will help you to systematically analyze the teaching standards and measure your development as a teacher. We help you reflect on your strengths and identify your growing edges in each of the standard areas, then guide you through a process to create an action plan for professional growth. This unique aspect of our program recognizes your individual development as a teacher. Ex. Wisconsin 10 For example, standard #3 of the Wisconsin 10 standards states that “Teachers understand that children learn differently”. 

"An educator in our program would reflect on what they currently do in that standard and what are opportunities for improvement. One teacher may choose to focus on differentiated instruction while another may explore poverty in their district and how it impacts student readiness." -Sarah Dixen 

"Most new teachers know that there are teaching standards because they write their PDPs connecting goals to these standards. Veteran teachers come to this program and recognize through exploration of the standards areas of their instruction that they can make dramatic changes that impact student success and their own professional development." -Amy Stoeckly 

"I think of teaching standards as the frame of a house…They exist to provide a strong foundation and infrastructure for all the other design elements of the house which are limited only by one’s imagination." -Margie Hylkema

In reality it is the integration and application of the curriculum that helps you expand your knowledge while putting what you have learned into practice. The critical assessment of every aspect of your teaching methods will allow you to reach more students with greater effectiveness. Learning in Community- establishes an environment that values each person and their learning, leveraging it to benefit everyone. Best Practice Pedagogy- ensures that you are provided with proven methods that shorten the trial and error learning curve to refine your teaching practice. Curriculum and Assessment -instills in you the understanding that curriculum and assessment go hand in hand. You must begin with the end in mind. Teacher Leadership- empowers you to find your voice and use it to enhance education in your classroom, school, community, state and the nation. Educational Research - enables you to measure your own effectiveness. You will learn how to determine that what you are doing in the classroom is having the intended effect on your students. Democracy, Diversity and Social justice- provides you with an understanding of environmental influences and differences that is essential to powerful education and effective learning for all of your students. Technology in Education- allows you to determine what technology works best for your students as they are constantly surrounded by media and electronics in their everyday life. Using technology in innovative ways can magnify and enhance your effectiveness as an educator. 

"Focus on Best Practice Pedagogy serves as a curricular umbrella in many ways for me as an educator. I see Best Practices as a kind of a navigational system. If I always keep best practices in mind I feel like I have a compass that will inform and guide good teaching decisions that in turn directly impact students." -Margie Hylkema

Constructivist philosophy is all about the student being an active participant in his or her own learning. In the Learning Community program the learning is centered upon you, identifying what you already know and then extending your growth from there. Facilitators try to make no assumptions about what you do or do not know about a given topic. Rather they use questions and discussion as a platform to understand your learning needs so they can plan and present new content in a way that is meaningful and relevant for all learners. By following a constructivist model, the content is always focused on the relevant questions and issues in education. There are continual formative assessments on the content to ensure that learners understand the essential elements. 

"I believe constructivism blends naturally with art education. I can’t imagine teaching art without understanding and honoring the creative mind of each student. Individual and collective intellectual constructs as externalized in the process of art making reflect the wonderfully unique experiences and thinking that every student has to offer." -Margie Hylkema

Format 1: Off Campus Face-to-Face

The Face-to-Face learning community format provides more direct time working in person with your community. This format is for people who learn better by interacting with others and want to develop a stronger and more personal network of relationships with cohort members. The Face-to-Face Learning Community program offers several specialty opportunities for educators as well. We currently have an adventure based experiential education learning community and have plans for an assessment and differentiation community as well as a social studies based community called Exploring Wisconsin.

Educators and district administrators can create their own specialty cohort by contacting the MTC Director. The Face-to-Face Leaning Community program meets one weekend per month during the academic year (not in June or July) for two years providing 10 face-to-face sessions per year. Each monthly group happens over a selected weekend from 8 to 4:30 on Saturday and 8 to 3:30 on Sunday. Your two Co- facilitators come to you at your site. In between your meetings your learning is facilitated through Desire2Learn our online learning management system. Additionally, once each year you will attend the MTC Annual November Conference where you will be exposed to best practices in education featuring speakers from across the nation.

Format 2 -Off Campus Blended Program

The Blended learning Community meets twice a semester once at the beginning and once at the end of the semester for two years for a total of 8 face to face meetings with your community. In addition, once each year you will attend the MTC Annual November Conference where you will be exposed to the best practices in education featuring speakers from across the nation. In between your meetings your learning is facilitated through Desire2Learn, our online learning management system.

Format 3 - Online Program

In the Online Learning Community program there are two one week summer institute sessions hosted on the UW-L campus where you will be taking 6 credits each summer. This program is an 18-month program. All other work with your community will be facilitated using Desire2Learn, our online learning management system.