Unit 1: Establishing the Learning Community


Home Page: Together Step by STEP: A Collaborative Approach for Writing a Research Paper
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Target Objective

Participants will implement strategies to establish a learning community

Unit Objectives

  1. Develop a personal mission statement that reflects values you wish to demonstrate in the learning community.
  2. Identify strategies that may be used to establish/support the learning community.

Lesson 1: Required Teacher Roles that are Necessary to Establish the Learning Community

Overall, project based assignments such as the one that will be discussed in this mini-course thrive on group work that requires collaboration as students employ social skills to communicate, learn from one another and build knowledge. The construction of knowledge occurs in a special place known as a learning community. But who is responsible for creating environment that will support the learning community? Of course, the answer is the teacher. If the duty of the teacher is to build an environmental infrastructure that will support the learning community, how can this be accomplished and what is the instructor's role? Read the following statements:

"The pursuit of learning is not a piece of content that can be taught. It is a value that teachers model. Only teachers who are avid, internally motivated learners can truly teach their students the joy of learning. The frequently espoused goal of lifelong learning for our students is hollow rhetoric unless the school is also a learning community in which teachers demonstrate engagement in meaningful learning activities. Teachers who are not 'turned on' to learning themselves are trying to teach about "places they ain't never been.' (2008, Haberman, p.1).

Given this statement, the role of the instructor is to:

  • Be motivated about learning
  • Model learning for students
  • Provide relevant learning activities for students

In addition to the roles mentioned above, the teacher should demonstrate a level of care for the student through non-verbal and verbal messages. Being motivated about learning means very little, if the teacher does not effectively communicate a level of care for each student.

Consider this statement.
"The verbal and nonverbal behavior of teachers provides information to students that generates meaning within the context of an interpersonal relationship." Through non-verbal behaviors students become more motivated and engaged in the process for learning.

Add another role to the list.

  • To effectively communicate a sense of care to all students.

The aforementioned roles are crucial and teachers need to practice and implement them to sustain the learning community.


  • How do these roles connect to my personal philosophy of teaching?
  • What other key roles have I played in the context of my classroom?

Write your response to these questions in the discussion area.

Lesson 2: The Mission Statement

The philosophy of teaching is often expressed in an instructor's personal mission statement.

Strategy #1: Create a Mission Statement

Learning communities support academic success, and one approach that may be used to form this environment calls for the creation of a mission statement.


Please read the following articles

What You'll Find on the Site Website/URL
Instructions for presenting the concept of a mission statement to your class http://www.stevereifman.com/blog/34-teaching-tip-of-the-week/103-tip-6-class-mission-statement-part-2-of-3
A simple method for creating a mission statement with your class in about twenty minutes http://www.oncourseworkshop.com/Motivation013.htm

A great statement delineates values and goals. For instance, suppose a 12th grade Political Science class after studying about major wars wrote the following vision statement: “To live peaceably amidst controversy”. The teacher could then facilitate a discussion about what this statement means in light of their daily interpersonal communications. Once finalized, the mission statement and rules should be published and hung in the classroom. In addition, they may be placed on the class’ web page, or printed and distributed on beautiful paper or card stock.



Review this mission statement. http://www.writersmith.com/2012/06/creating-personal-mission-statement-for.html

Your mission statement should answer the questions: "...What you want to give or get as a teacher" (http://www.ask.com/question/parent-teacher-organization-mission-statement, 2013). "What can I promise to give my learners and school?"(http://www.ask.com/question/parent-teacher-organization-mission-statement, 2013).

View this video on developing a mission statement. Although the author speaks in the context of a business setting, the same concepts may be applied to the world of academia.

Essentially, your mission statement supports the development of a learning community because you are the leader/facilitator of this burgeoning atmosphere filled with future leaders. Students admire and look to you for assistance during the research writing process. As educators, we cannot expect for students to practice social or communication skills that we do not practice ourselves. John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership refers to the law of the Lid. This law sets forth the idea that your workers (in this case your students) will not achieve a higher standard of excellence than we ourselves have achieved or desire to achieve.

Strategy #2: Create a Learning Contract With Each Student

Creating a mission statement is a crucial component for developing an environment that supports a learning community. In addition, the creation of a Student Learning Contract for each student will support the learning Community as it links to and amplifies values expressed in the mission statement

For instance if one of the values is accountability, the student’s learning contract would specify how the student plans to be accountable for his or her learning within the community. Here's an example of a learning contract that may be used for the STEP Research Project.



The contract is signed by the student and instructor and maintained in the individual’s electronic/paper file.

Contracts may be used to keep students academically motivated and on track.

The following link provides more information about the benefits of creating a learning contract.


Lesson 3: Establishing the Learning Community

The previous lessons have addressed establishing an environment for the learning community to thrive. The role of the instructor as a facilitator, learner and leader for the community has been presented. In addition, an opportunity to reflect and consider one's educational philosophy as expressed through the individual mission statement was discussed. Now its time to determine which electronic tool will be used to support the collaborative processes involved in writing the research paper.

A tool is required that will allow for collaboration between students. A word processor does not offer this kind of functionality. After conducting research, I have come to the conclusion that the wiki is the best tool for sustaining a learning community.

The wiki creates a perfect environment for the union of the required technology for the assignment with the social and higher order critical thinking skills necessary to perform the project.

According to West & West (2009). Students working in a wiki are "learning in a digital commons" (p. 23) where as a community they share ideas and construct knowledge. This calls for four key behaviors:

  • Being Open - Work produced by the students is open to the scrutiny of others. This means that the student should be prepared to receive and make use of constructive criticism. In addition, the student should be open to a "relinquishing of the self and an appreciation for networking, diversity and new ideas, and alternative approaches to learning and solving problems" (West & West, 2009, p. 23).
  • Peering - "Peering is based on seeking out and assembling the right talents, information and resources needed to get a job done" (West & West, 2009, p. 23).
  • Sharing - Resources belong to everyone in the community of learners, "no one person is individually responsible for any of the outcomes. Ideas are shared. Goals are shared" (West & West, 2009, p. 23).
  • Acting Globally - The ability to work toward learning that is relevant and meaningful as its outcomes have the potentially to positively impact a problematic issue in a part of the world.

Wiki's are also appeal to Millennial students because many of its technological features are familiar to them. These features include:

  • The ability to remain 'connected' to others as information is rapidly shared.
  • The ability to receive immediate feedback from via the wiki

In addition to facilitating the growth of social skills, using a wiki results in the development of:

  • Critical thinking skills as students become engaged in authentic assignments. West & West (2009), describe this kind of learning as experiential.

So Which Wiki Should I Use?

There are several kinds of wiki's that are available. Some of the more popular wiki web sites are:

  • docs.google.com
  • WikiSpaces.com
  • sites.google.com
  • Media Wiki.com
  • MojoMojo.org
  • PmWiki.org

Although all of the wiki sites listed above are great, WikiSpaces is extremely easy to use. I would recommend this wiki service due to its user friendly interface which resembles a word processing environment.

Please watch the following YouTube How to Create a Wiki Using Wiki Spaces

What Should Be Included?

Deciding which wiki to use is a great start, however it is crucial to consider how the site will be organized. So, follow the instruction below and.....

Click here to see how a wiki research paper project could be set up


Just as the colors, and 'feel' of websites vary so do the perspectives concerning how a wiki should be organized. You will be glad to know that West & West (2009), have set forth in clear terms the factors that teachers should consider and implement when constructing a wiki for a collaborative project. Read the article thumbnail|Guidelines to follow when setting up a collaborative wiki project


After reading and viewing a sample wiki website, how would you go about organizing your site? Which criteria would you employ to form teams?

Which strategies would you implement to maintain an open learning community?

Please write your response on the discussion tab.

Continue to the next lesson Unit 2: Grammar Building

Home Page: Together Step by STEP: A Collaborative Approach for Writing a Research Paper
Preface: Brenda Rhyne Portfolio

Unit 2: Grammar Building   Unit 3: Search   Unit 4: Transpose   Unit 5: Extract   Unit 6: Prepare