Shifting gears from the introductory “Critical Issues in Education” course, the “Community Learning Collaborative” course represents an initial manifestation of the program’s ideas for reimagining introductory level courses and the program as a whole. Created by Alice Lesnick, Margo Schall, and Alexandra Wolkoff in partnership with faculty colleagues, alumni, and educators, the “Community Learning Collaborative,” was designed to facilitate opportunities for authentic and accountable relationship building between current students and educators involved through the program.
So what is the Community Learning Collaborative (CLC)?
A Course and Network sparked in the Bi-Co Education Program and the Teaching and Learning Institute by the drive to turn “placements” into partnerships and thus to rethink the Program and the Colleges as community partners, the Community Learning Collaborative is a gateway course for and a network of educators, including alum of Bryn Mawr and Haverford, working towards education justice and sustained creativity through partnership: mutual accountability and inspiration. The CLC network is anchored by the CLC course, taught each semester on Monday evenings, as a primary lab for working things out in the context of broader relationships. The CLC explores and supports the work of educators in finding connections where they aren’t already and living into them. It is a living example of how a course can make new learning through relationships possible when the course alone is not the sole organizer -- when its orientation changes towards more fully realized, equitably weighted, and accountable collaboration among colleges, organizations, educators, and students.
Student experiences in the course revolve around three central themes which they engage with in their fieldwork partnerships: relationships (building trust, connection, concern, communication, authenticity, and respect), facilitation (modes of leading learning), and change (educational, transformational, individual, and organizational). While this course continues to provide an introduction for students to contemplate and reflect on their ideas and frameworks regarding perceptions of education, it also integrates aspects of upper-level courses to better prepare students for further involvement in the field. Students now have greater autonomy in a course where they can co-create expectations and intentions with educators, author their own educational statement of purpose for the course, and maintain direct communications with educators with whose educational settings they are a part of in their placements, which better prepares students to develop their knowledge and skills both in theory and in praxis.
As the program itself continues its considerations regarding its own standards, students and mentors were also encouraged to think about this idea of standards in their own work and personal lives through considerations of a few questions, such as how we come to create our own standards, how external standards affect our own, and how we can better develop standards for what we want to build. As students construct their own personal frameworks and practices for fostering relationships, facilitation, and change through the course and mentors are able to reflect on their own practices, we wanted to also provide a space for them here to share these reflections as they take what they have learned into future education courses and beyond.
Question to Students: "How has the CLC informed your own standards for yourself, your work, and/or your perceptions of justice?"
“CLC has helped me focus my standards more on labor, as opposed to arbitrary measures of achievement (like grades). While grades are still very important to me (try as I might!), I've moved towards more labor-focused standards for myself, especially when it comes to education classes.” -KS
“It has forced me to look for moments of reflection and growth in my daily life, rather than simply when I am doing traditional academic assignments.” -BW
“The CLC is so uniquely structured that it gave me a chance to apply what I've learned from readings and class to real world, although it's not a real classroom setting. I learned so much through practice and discussion with my fellow classmates and I was glad to get to know their partnership works, which further enriched my understanding in education.” -J
“This class has pushed me to redefine my own standards and has challenged me to think more about/come to terms with some of my previous standards having been structurally imposed on me.” -Anon
“CLC has enriched how I understand community. I situate my own standards and growth in relation to my role in partnership and collaboration, asking how my own standards contribute to, challenge, or align with the rest of my community and why.” -SE
“The dogma that are imposed through our learning should be met with critical thinking from the learner in order to evaluate and interpret the implications of the ideas, whether they are justified and non-discriminating or not. The standard should then be whether the student produces something uniquely individual to them, not to mean innovative, original ideas, rather presents itself as a curious, experiential resource that has the potential to add to the thread of connectivity across people.” -AK
Question to Mentors and Co-teachers: What are your standards for your work and how have you developed them?
Mentor and Co-teacher Responses:
“My standards for my work are measured by the energy and momentum that I cultivate in myself and my students in class. If I'm happy and interested in what we're doing, there is a baseline for positive engagement for my students. I hope to be a lifelong educator and want to improve in my capacity and thoughtfulness each year, while also cultivating increased meaning outside of work so I have more of myself to bring to my students.” -JM
Some questions that I consider are “1. Am I applying what I learned from class to class, and giving myself both enough time to reflect sincerely and enough umph to implement new practices? (Commitment...) 2. Am I taking risks with an air of lightness, forgiveness (un/relearning) 3. Am I breaking down the big into small enough to carry? 4. Am I connecting to those around me, regularly, with slack and openness? 5. Am I keeping my talk close to my actions?” -MS
“Always engage in connection and relationship, practice with kindness and integrity, and focus on providing support for others to share their true selves - and share mine!” -AM
“My standards for my work center on courage: what fosters it in myself and others, to sustain energy for vision, struggle, conflict, and joy.” - AL
The CLC course will meet Monday evenings Fall and Spring semesters, with the aim of building continuity in partnership, mutual learning, and work supporting just, creative futures. Please consider becoming involved!