Introduction to Building Successful Learning Communities in the Classroom

Building Successful Learning Communities in the Classroom

Why do It?

Email from Dana Minard, Sequim High School Teacher, 9/4/13, 2:32 PM:


This was the BEST first day I have had in my 14 years of teaching!!!!  Thank you Matt for introducing me to this approach.  I can see were this will lead and hopefully the results will be AWESOME!!!


Here's why the results will be awesome:

Building Successful Learning Communities in the Classroom is a method used to develop a classroom environment that fosters engagement in learning by creating a classroom environment that is physically and emotionally safe for the student and promotes academic risk-taking. Students make academic growth when they are willing to try something new and risk being wrong. Nadler and Luckner (Processing the Experience, Second Edition) called this “Edgework.” Research by Walberg and Haertel (Psychology and Educational Practice) demonstrates that nine areas having to do with classroom climate and environment have greater impact on student learning than classroom instruction, curriculum design and assessments (see chart below). BuildingSuccessful Learning Communities focuses on those nine areas.

In addition to being good for students and classroom environment, teachers may be interested to know how using the Building Successful Learning Communities model may impact their performance regarding the TPEP. For information on the TPEP and Building Successful Learning Communities click on the link in the menu to the left.

What Impacts Student Learning

 What Impacts Student Learning


Psychology and Educational Practice

By Herbert J. Walberg and Geneva D. Haertel

The Method

Building Successful Learning Communities in the Classroom involves a four-step process. Activities are sequenced and carefully adjusted by the teacher throughout the process to bring students to the point that they are getting along with and working well with their classmates and are willing to take academic risks. The steps are:

  • Warm-up, Ground Rules, Get to Know You Activities – designed to break the ice and help students get to know each other including:
    • Full Value Contract – behavioral agreement among the group
    • Challenge By Choice – all are expected to participate, but none are forced
  • Deinhibitizer – activities designed to help students become less self-conscience and willing to try things in front of classmates.
  • Trust – activities designed to create trust in and among the students so that they will support each other’s academic efforts and to encourage academic risk-taking.
  • Group Problem-Solving – opportunities for students to work together to solve problems and achieve tasks that they cannot solve or achieve on their own. In this step students learn to work effectively with others and hopefully generalize those skills to situations outside the classroom.