A learning community seems to me as a way to describe an adult learning classroom setting. As a community, each adult is an equal contributor to the group, and the instructor also contributes equally to the group. The learning community promotes participation and sharing of resources so that learners come to know the empowerment that comes as a result of critical thinking. Each learner, hoping to achieve their own success, is also instrumental in the success of others. In this way, the community of learning must support the success of all – there are no wrong answers, and there is no failure.
To build a learning community, instructors must first demonstrate the characteristics of a learning community. It might be helpful for the instructor to discuss this concept with the learners, and create guidelines that would ensure the successful development of such a community. All learners must understand the importance of such a community, and know that it will have a direct impact on their success in the course. Learners must know what is expected of them, and in turn, will know how other learners will be contributing to their learning experience.
Once the framework has been set, the instructor can model critical thinking, which is an important aspect of a learning community. When teaching clinical to nursing students, I verbally provide an example of my critical thinking process, and I believe that students realize that even with experience, not all nursing decisions are automatic. They discover that even experienced nurses need to pause and think, consult nursing resources, and discuss with colleagues, in order to reach a conclusion. I encourage the students to always do this with their peers, as it promotes critical thinking development.
A truly valuable learning community must regard instructors and learners as equal members, each with their unique contributions. And as a whole, creating a rich community of knowledge and experiences that contribute to learning.