Many former students and undergraduate alumni of the University of the Philippines would probably agree that in reading about lifelong learning, scholarship and learning communities, UP is an embodiment of most of the characteristics of a true community where people are not only striving to become an academic, but also a group that puts up almost an effortless vibe of learning. As I am sure there is a parallel collective in other schools, I have not seen a community of this size where everywhere feels like a virtual classroom (so pardon my limited perspective about other schools– feel free to share below).
Kruse, Louis and Bryk (1995) said that learning communities usually have the five characteristics, namely: reflective dialogue, focus of student learning, interaction exists among teachers, collaboration, shared values and norms (Kruse, Louis and Bryk, 1995). The latter proposed that these should be present in a organization to be considered a community with a lifelong goal of growth by being voluntarily engaged. From where I stand, these characteristics, especially reflective sharing, collaboration and values- sharing , are easily ever- present in UP, and is not just exclusive among the teaching staff, but in several forms as well.
Reflective dialogue is described as conversations where teachers discuss student improvement in their teaching. In the university, this is generally observable as personal traits of all members both students and teachers. In the UP culture, constant self evaluation and critical thinking are behaviors that are constantly encouraged within the self, and this opens
communication lines not just between faculty members but amazingly, students also get involved.
Collaboration is not exclusive between just teachers, but always present, as organizations get deeply creative in activities and projects. Administration activities and the student council, or the USC, equally compete with student orgs; there isn’t a monopoly of who controls and regulates.
Values and norms are shared and passed on thru a strong tradition of independence, self- analysis and critical thinking– traits considered a brand of membership in the UP community– are just some of what are considered important as a member of this community. Granted, there are some who may not fit into certain molds but it is almost safe to say that its ethos tend to prescribe to have some of the traits mentioned above, and could possibly manifest in many implicit forms.
I believe that the key to a successful learning community is that students champion lifelong learning themselves, and in this institution, most of it are done outside of teacher monitoring. As it is already a given that faculty members in most institution posses higher academic profiles, a sort of culture within the student community needs to surface, and in UP, the latter had nailed it down to a tee.
(Roberts, S. & Pruitt, E. Z. (2009). The professional learning community: An overview (Chapter 1). In Schools as professional learning communities: Collaborative activities and strategies for professional development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, pp. 1-25.). Retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/27683_Roberts_Chapter_1.pdf