Culture of learning

The culture of learning has a profound impact on students’ academic behaviors. All educators have experienced the phenomenon of a classroom charged with energy and enthusiasm for learning. But it can be challenging to replicate that experience every day to create an environment that increases the likelihood that all students will engage and learn. Current research indicates that the culture of learning is shaped by many factors, including the attitudes and beliefs of the students and educators, the classroom interactions, the available resources, and the instructional practices employed by the teacher.

The culture of learning is positively affected when educators and students develop a true community of learners. A community of learners can be defined as a group of people who share values and beliefs and who actively engage in learning from one another—learners from teachers, teachers from learners, and learners from learners. They thus create a learning-centered environment in which students and educators are actively and intentionally constructing knowledge together. Learning communities are connected, cooperative, and supportive. Peers are interdependent in that they have joint responsibility for learning and share resources and points of view, while sustaining a mutually respectful and cohesive environment.

A positive learning community supports diverse student capabilities by enabling all members to participate at their level of expertise and comfort—and, specifically, is characterized by feelings of safety among participants, as well as willingness to ask questions and make mistakes. This supported engagement motivates students so that they are more willing to persist when they are challenged or confused. Environments that foster beliefs of competence through effort can create a secure sense of belonging; one’s interest, commitment, and progress matter more than one’s perceived ability (Inzlicht & Good, 2006). Thus, creating a safe community in which peers and teachers are viewed as allies is essential for greater engagement and academic achievement.

School systems interested in building learning communities, within classrooms and school wide, can attend to these recommendations from the research literature:

  • Encourage, expect, and require authentic collegiality among the adults in the system
  • Model, encourage, and expect student participation and active engagement
  • Set high expectations for all students while providing appropriate social and academic supports
  • Promote a sense of belonging among students by encouraging and recognizing diverse expressions of competence and expertise