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Please read the passage text listed for you here and respond to reflection questions that follow along with the instructor’s comments. *BEGIN PASSAGE * Intentional Learning Communities are professiona

Please read the passage text listed for you here and respond to reflection questions that follow along with the instructor’s comments.


Intentional Learning Communities are professional learning communities thatare rigorous, collaborative, focused on learning, and built upon shared norms andvalues. They are groups of educators who meet regularly with the goal of improvingteaching and learning and are characterized by (1) skilled facilitation and (2) theuse of protocols to guide adult learning. In summary, they need to be intentional(School Reform Initiative, 2019). 

IMPLEMENTATION SPOTLIGHTBY KARI THIEREREngaging in challenging conversations takes time, a culture of trust that allows for risk-taking, an intentional agenda, and skilled facilitation. These four elements combine to grow the capacity of educators to learn from and with one another; and develop an equity lens that pushes them to have a fierce commitment to serving each and every student. Only after creating these communities is the foundation laid for meaningful development of universally designed learning experiences

Dedicating Time to Intentional Learning CommunitiesThere is never enough time in the day for us to do all that we need to do, so peer collaboration time has to be beneficial both for individual growth as well as to inform instructional practice.Developing community and doing intentional work around educational equity takes time.1.) In most schools, the structures for such conversations are already in place--that is, the weekly team meetings that go by a variety of names, such as common planning time, data teams, or PLCS. With Intentional Learning Communities, we apply an equity lens to every endeavor. We need to use the time we have to probe matters of great urgency. Advocate to help facilitate the session so you and your colleagues can begin to have difficult conversations.

2.) Once you have identified time for Intentional Learning Communities to meet, do not allow it to be interrupted by the menagerie of disruptions that affect schools. Protect time to think about your practice rather than talking about lunch duty or the upcoming field trips. Those other conversations are important too, but what often happens is that the immediate gets our attention, and we neglect the long-term conversations that lead to improved instruction and equity. The deeper conversations get pushed to the occasional professional development day or before/after the school year: Regular, ongoing collaboration time is essential for schools to take up issues of social justice and equity that will improve school success for all students.

Time often gets blamed as an excuse to avoid challenging conversations. If the school is committed to serving all students, then that commitment needs to be demonstrated through the way we use the time we already have. We make time for what is important.

Intentional Culture BuildingIn order to increase engagement in UDL, we have to minimize threats and distractions. For some practitioners, conversations about race, class, and educational equity can cause anxiety, fear, and guilt. Developing a culture of trust is imperative for us to feel safe enough to take risks and know that we will be supported. This does not mean creating a space where people do not feel discomfort; on the contrary, discomfort is an important part of this equity-based work. 

Setting AgreementsMany of you are likely familiar with the concept of norms or agreements. However, in equity work, these agreements need to go deeper. Agreements are important for groups to define so they know how they will be working together. They help to create the conditions for risk. taking, building trust, and mutual accountability for the improvement of instructional practice and individual learning. Within social justice and equity work, these agreements need to be thoughtfully developed and analyzed.      Gorski (2019) writes, "Too often, ground rules that are put in place, whether by an educator/ facilitator or by participants, privilege the already-privileged groups in a dialogical experience. For example, in a dialogue about race, white participants will often support ground rules meant to keep anger out of the discussion- ground rules focused keeping them comfortable. When we consider who is protected by ground rules like 'do not express anger,’ it becomes apparent that, intentionally or not, they protect the participants representing privileged groups."     When developing agreements, it is important to be open and honest about what each person needs in order to make the space work for them and their learning. Agreements are also living and must be revisited regularly. As a group grows, what they need shifts, and the agreements should grow and shift with the individuals of the learning community. There are some great examples of agreements that have been developed by equity-based facilitators.

Planning Your WorkOnce your learning community has discussed how to work together allocating time, shared understanding of why, and agreements to begin to build the culture - then it is time to plan the learning of the group. Intentional planning is necessary so that people are pushed into their risk zones, while avoiding places that are too comfortable or too dangerous. The work the learning community engages in must be thoughtfully scaffolded to keep people at their growing edge. It is helpful to think of this scaffold in terms of risk- starting with lower-risk learning and moving the group into more challenging and risky spaces.     Protocols that structure conversations are instrumental to helping groups engage and stay in challenging conversations. As group members are beginning to work with one another, protocols serve as a system to hold the group, as participants begin to develop the skills, knowledge, and dispositions of surfacing and challenging assumptions and biases. 

Opening MovesOpening moves are activities and practices that include learning with and from one another and beginning to build a community. Opening moves are designed to help individuals and groups learn more about themselves as individuals and as educators and start to uncover their own assumptions, biases, and beliefs. In this phase, protocols help provide the structure for engaging in honest conversations that allow reflection on individual practices and beliefs and help guide and focus such conversations through active listening and questioning skills. A few protocols (all freely available on the SRI website) that are helpful in this stage of community building include: 

1.)  Micro Labs. A protocol designed to build active listening skills within a group while also allowing group members to learn more about one another and their practice. It involves participants working in triads, with each participant answering a specific sequence of questions There is no discussion, just listening. Questions can be related to a person's educational journey. experience with equity conversations, understanding of pedagogy, and So forth The questions allow a group to grow together by deeply listening to one another.

2.)  Paseo/Circles of Identity. This protocol helps groups to begin to examine issues of identity, diversity, beliefs and values. The protocol asks participants to think about the different elements of their own identity, allowing participants to reflect on their own, while also learning to listen and talk with others about identity.

     Each of these protocols works to help participants know each other as individuals, not just in their role at the school/organization, but who they are and how they show up in the world. Identity is a key component of engaging in conversations about race and social justice. It is important for educators to explore their own racial identity, so they can think deeply about the implications of their identity on their teaching practice. 

Going DeeperAs participants in your learning community begin to know each other, the group will be able to go deeper into issues of race and equity. In this phase of group development, protocols can help support the group to have conversations about race and equity in a variety of ways.1.) Use text protocols to make meaning of articles or books the group reads together. Texts that focus on issues of race, white fragility, and implicit bias are all helpful to develop an equity lens and begin to support the group's conversations. As group members have built community, they will be able to have more meaningful conversations about the texts they read, focusing on the implications on teaching and learning for the students they serve.

2.) Look at data through an equity lens. As groups begin to develop skill at having conversations about race and equity, the next step is to analyze data through an equity lens. Who are the students who are not being served by our school? How do the policies and practices we enact privilege some students, while potentially oppressing others? How do the units of study we provide represent the cultural diversity of the students we serve and the world we live in? Data becomes more than the quantitative numbers that are gathered from standardized tests and broadens to include evidence about attendance and discipline, as well as looking deeply at student work.

Skilled FacilitationIntentional Learning Communities do not just happen, they take time and care. Growingyour capacity and the capacity of your colleagues to engage in these types of communities means helping to grow the facilitation skills of your team. Protocols alone cannot hold a group completely and help them go as deeply as they need to go. A facilitator with experience in protocols and an understanding of adult learning theory can help both support and grow groups to develop the capacity to engage and stay in conversations, Growing capacity is necessary for the long-term viability of an intentional learning community and for the larger organization.     As your learning community practices collaboration and reflective dialogue, with anemphasis on race and equity, you will grow your capacity to continue to go deeper. Ultimately, the goal is to help you and your colleagues know yourselves and each other well, begin to know your students, and to use this newly developed equity lens to create a teaching and learning environment that is designed to support the success of all students. These practices move beyond the traditional learning communities and into the Intentional Learning Communities that will ultimately shift practice. 


Begin instructor’s notes and commentary for the assignment:

If we, as educators, are truly committed to educational equity, then we have to learn how to engage in challenging conversations about race. These conversations cannot only be theoretical but must also dig deep into how race and bias impact our teaching and learning practices. It isn't enough to say, "We are committed to equity," and then go about business as usual without interrogating our practices and our systems.

This has become a frequent notion - by words - diversity, equity, equality, inclusion - as if the inclusion of the words or the creation of a statement solves the problem.

It does not. Equity work is active. It is doing and inspiring others to do the same. It is modeling the very behavior you wish to see in your teachers - and your students. The text mentions the creation of Intentional Learning Communities. These are communities committed to Universal Design for Learning, but that also allows us to become comfortable with discomfort and topics that are not always easy to talk about. These are the most necessary conversations of all.

Referring to the above passage text, create an Intentional Learning Community that you feel needs to happen within the school you plan to teach at, (grades 6-12, respectively: middle and high schools). How would you go about building your community? What activities would you include to build trust and to aid in the creation of a supportive environment? What would your ground rules be? How would you approach those resistant to these communities? After giving a brief narrative response to the above questions - please answer the reflection questions below and include those answers within the same document.


•           Leaning into discomfort can be challenging but it is such an important part of growth and learning. How can examining and sharing your own beliefs and biases help to create a space for more equitable systems and policies?

•           How can protocols such as Micro Labs and Circles of Identity help your Intentional Learning Community facilitate difficult conversations and growth? And why is it important to go beyond these protocols to have deeper, more meaningful conversations?

•           Think about your school or district. Who do you think are the students who are not being served? Do you think there are certain policies and practices that privilege some students, while potentially oppressing others? Write down your answers and examine them after you analyze data to see where your inclinations may not be in line with the data.

•           What makes fostering collaboration and community within an Intentional Learning Community a critical strategy to provide multiple means of engagement?

•           How can minimizing threats and distractions lead to increased engagement when having difficult conversations with our colleagues about social justice?

•           How is expert teaching linked to expert learning?

•           After reviewing the key considerations for an Intentional Learning Community, do you believe that you have this type of professional learning community in your school? Why or why not? In your position, how could you help to build it?             

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