Mind in the Making Learning Communities

 

Since its publication in April 2010, we have observed that Mind in the Making (MITM) has emerged as an unusual and effective strategy for crossing boundaries and creating strong linkages. Throughout the country, groups of parents, educators, and other family support and health professionals have joined together to learn more about the research on children’s learning from birth through the early elementary school years, and about how to use this research to promote better outcomes for children. For example, a webinar was being held by a state department of education; a college was putting on a symposium; a parent education program was reading the book and holding monthly discussions; a school district was creating a book club and principals were reading a chapter a month and then talking about how to implement what they read in their schools; a professional group on children’s media was studying the book in order to apply what they had learned into children’s television programming; a Child Care Resource and Referral group was offering training; a library was holding a city-wide discussion; a high school had created a course for its team parents; a charter school network was talking about to infuse life skills into their curriculum; the southern region of a state was creating a website to promote discussion of the book, a state Association for the Education of Young Children group was using Mind in the Making as the focus for a conference; parenting websites had regular live chat groups and so on.

FWI has come to think of these groups as learning communities because of their enthusiasm for learning. The ingenuity and creativity of these groups is inspiring and we decided we wanted to connect them to provide opportunities for mutual learning. With funding from the Kellogg Foundation, on March 11th 2011, FWI released a Request for Information (RFI) for Mini-Grants of up to $5000 to community, state, or national nonprofit organizations that were using Mind in the Making to create learning communities. In all, we received 74 applications from 28 states and funded 35 organizations from 22 states (Download the Mini Grantee Name and Location List).

Learning Communities appear to have a number of characteristics in common:

  1. Learning Communities have the power to bring new players together.
  2. Learning Communities do not shy away from reaching the most “in need” among us.
  3. Learning Communities focus on learning from and with each other. They have replaced the notion of expert learning (the sage on stage) with a belief that there is expertise among us all.
  4. Learning Communities focus on active learning that is experiential  and includes engaging participants in a process of self-reflection and self-discovery, leading toward action.
  5. Learning Communities are using new media in creative ways.
  6. Learning Communities are not just using curriculum they are handed—they are actively creating new curricula, based on the development of children and adult development.
  7. Learning Communities focus on assessment, but tie assessment to children’s development.
  8. Learning Communities have reframed teaching as teaching AND learning together.
  9. Learning Communities connect policy to practice.
  10. Learning Communities continue—they have strategies to “play it forward.”