G. Merma Molina

Universidad de Alicante (SPAIN)
Learning Communities are groups that are linked by a common theme. It allows students with common goals, work collaboratively in a dynamic learning and participatory environment. In this new learning style related contents are contextualized enabling effective learning practices for students and teachers, through strategies, which connect the conceptual, emotional, physical, communicative and axiological domains. Students relate different course materials and find sequences between different contents, enhance their viewing, listening and thinking skills, increase their performance, expand their interests, improve their communication skills and, especially the coexistence is provided.
We will address in this paper some theoretical and methodological key issues, linked with the use of learning communities and their contribution to the development of certain values (cooperation, inclusion, integration, companionship, commitment, responsibility, respect, etc.) in the university education. We will address the basic principles of learning communities and how we use them in Higher Education, which are the minimum conditions for the existence of a learning community, what kind of learning can be generated, what kind of values can be developed and what benefits can be generated by learning communities us individuals and collective and throughout the teaching-learning process.

Some conclusions from this research are:

- Learning communities are an educational project, which can be used both in the institutional context and in the classroom. In both cases, there are common goals, which are the starting point, to the social and educational transformation.
- The project structures everything from the classroom to the organization of the university and its relationship with the community and it is based on dialogue to promote values such as critical participation and promote an egalitarian relationship between people and cultures.
- Learning communities allow you to build a culture of learning and a culture of coexistence, so that all instances and members are committed to achieve positive environment in the centre, and the construction and acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Teachers and students jointly engage in inquiry activities and culturally relevant educational research and they belong to different disciplines and fields of knowledge.
- Hierarchical and bureaucratic structures of organization are replaced by the collaborative, shared leadership, participation and coordination. Learning communities are fully integrated institutions in the community in which they are located, as they plan their activities on it and they are sensitive to their concerns and needs, and utilize community resources of all kinds.
- It is important to rethink learning as a constructive process in which learners are both subjects and protagonists of their own learning. Learning is based on interpersonal relations and takes place in a specific cultural context.
- Classrooms as learning communities tell us about a group of people (teacher-pupil) with different levels of experience, knowledge and expertise and they are learning through involvement and participation in authentic and culturally relevant activities, thanks to the collaboration established between them and the collective knowledge and support that lend to one another.
- The basic principles of learning communities are summarized in: transform instead of adapting, joint participation and equal dialogue.