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Smaller Learning Communities

During the last fifty years researchers have noticed the growing tendency among the higher schools’ students. Started from 1,000 students, nowadays the number of students has been changed up to 1,500 learners involved in educational process across various higher studying establishments. The noticeable fact is the students gaining the higher score of learning success during their education in kindergartens and other smaller learning groups than at their time at universities.

Evidentially, that they have achieved better grades, higher scores, the best attendance rates, less involvement in drugs and alcohol stories and better position from school safety and rules keeping. Smaller audience size makes the best possible conditions for personalized learning thus it is a fruitful environment for innovative high school reforms’ setting. The author of School that Works underlines the importance and usefulness of smaller learning communities’ environment for enhancing learning conditions and improving the students’ learning results (1992).

The most recent reforms performed in various learning institutions can be characterized as “scaling down” reorganization of established educational procedure for achieving the ability to provide more meaningful learning service for young customers seeking knowledge. Moreover mentors, advisors, and tutors became available more frequently thus the communication between students and staff has been improved significantly. Smaller learning community is easier to be linked to practical life knowledge therefore teachers receive a better chance to transfer their knowledge and skills directly to those who are eager to get them.

Small Learning Communities – Types and Forms Schools –within- schools include the initiatives encouraged by bigger educational establishments to cultivate the autonomous culture of district independent affiliate programs leading by superintendent or patronizing establishment’s board of directors. Sometimes management is formally performed by the both mentioned authorities. Schools-within-schools are allowed to have their own educational programs, culture, financial funds (budget), staff and students.

Either students or teachers have the right to chose to affiliate with schools-within-schools or not. Organization bringing the professional thematic differentiation in schools-within-schools infrastructure has been transformed into Career Academy. The key benefits of career academies are concluded in their ability to combine the academic studying principals with practical skills and real working opportunities, which are the best possible way to prepare students to their postsecondary education and future employment.

Teachers in career academies have employed personalized learning approach with high academic standards linked to real-life working experiences and relevant attitudes. This type of smaller learning communities helps to establish the constructive working environment between students and teachers’ staff and inside of small learning groups. Some large educational establishments practice dividing students into groups including hundreds of them varying from grade nine to grade twelve. This approach is well known as House Plan scheme.

The principal of House Plan scheme is concluded in student’s ability to take some courses at home with the house members, studying the chosen discipline with house teachers. Each particular house is settled with own educational plan, culture, social activities and discipline norms. It is very personalized approach with the certain lack of curriculum guidance or instructions arrangements. Magnet Programs are the sort of alternative to House Plan, they allow to study in grouped mode focusing on mathematics, science or art.

Stepping away from the magnet group’s discipline for participation in noncore studying is allowed and widely practiced by students. Subjects’ specifications used for creating Magnet Programs attract students from the entire school, the level of freedom and personalization makes this program quite popular among learners. The most independent smaller learning communities are well known as Small schools. However, they can act on the territory of the bigger educational establishment; they are small freestanding schools with their own staff, students and rules. Smaller Learning Community – Summary of Research

Scholars have calculated that the half of respondents participated in smaller learning communities’ research have done equally in small schools comparing to the larger schools, and another half was better in smaller schools in the terms of their grades, tests results, social position, personal achievements and the level of cognitive skills, and knowledge (Cotton, 1996, p. 29). Ethically smaller learning environments help to popularize the economy equality, therefore the students from financially wealthier families study at equal positions with their palls from lower-income families (Klonsky, 1998).

It is a very important factor for positively emotional learning environment and evolving economic condition as an obstacle for quality of educational process. The bigger schools suffer from controversial attitudes and relationships between students basing on their material status. This tendency has a bad impact on academic achievements of particular category of students in the bigger schools (Howley, Bickel, 2000). Small schools succeeded to build a positive socioeconomic environment for learners received a right to expect the better students’ attitude and behavior.

They have very low level of aggressive behavior and vandalism, better attendance, less discipline breaking cases. The most recent study performed by Educational Priorities Panel during the first year of studying in size reduced class has noticed the improved teachers-students communication and morality, the less number of disciplinary referrals, the higher level of attendance and participation in social class events (The Class Size Reduction Program, A first Year Report). Social behavior’ activation and improvement across the smaller learning establishments has boosted the students’ participation in extracurricular events.

It is a result of positive changes in personal attitude and social behavior of students. Smaller learning communities’ practice has managed to lay down the high dropouts rates among students and improve attendance thru rising socio economic status of every student and personalizing attitude to every learner. Interpersonal relationships between students and teachers in smaller learning environments create the appropriate basis for students’ preparation to study in colleges and universities. The learners in small schools feel connected with their teachers and with each others.

Communication improvement is an evidence of students feeling better in smaller schools’ communities than in bigger educational institutions. Economically, small schools’ organization is more beneficial as they have reduced their bureaucratic machine previously used in larger schools. Smaller learning communities save money on their own administration thus they are less expensive for students and their families. References: 1. Cotton, K. (2000). Summary of findings from the research on school size. A fact sheet prepared for the American Youth Policy Forum. 2. Cotton, K. (1996). School size school climate and student performance.

Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, School Improvement Research Series, 20, 28-34. 3. Klonsky, M. (1998). Small schools: the numbers tell a story. University of Illinois at Chicago, Small Schools Workshop. 4. Howley, C. , & Bickel, R. (2000). When it comes to schooling… small works: School size, poverty and student achievement. Rural School and Community Trust, Policy Program. 5. Reducing Class Size, What Do We Know? U. S. Department of Education, March 1999. 6. Wood, G. (1992). Schools that work: America’s most innovative public education programs. New York: Penguin Books.

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