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4. Learning from and with the community

During the first three years of their career, beginning teachers need to gain knowledge of their students and the school context and of how to design curriculum and instruction that is responsive to both. More and more, gaining such knowledge requires beginning teachers to develop connections to the communities in which their students live. Students’ lives outside of school are inextricably intertwined with their lives within schools. Teachers who become familiar with the communities in which students’ live and learn, and who develop strong relationships with people who live and work with young people in those communities, can do a better job of teaching. Research demonstrates the effectiveness of curricular approaches that use the community as a resource for learning and that enable young people to become resources for their communities.

While some communities face severe challenges associated with poverty, all communities have organizations and individuals with capacities that can be mobilized to support children’s success in school and beyond. Community-based organizations in many of our most challenged communities have made significant contributions to young people’s learning and development. Compared to many typical young people in the United States, those with high levels of participation in community-based organizations were 26% more likely to be recognized for good grades, more than twice as likely to view themselves as worthy persons and more than two-and-one-half times more likely to express a sense of civic responsibility and a desire to give back to their communities.

Beginning teachers can structure their study groups around learning about and with the community. The tools listed below will help you and your colleagues work with the community to enrich your teaching and your students’ learning:

Also see the Engages communities part of the In the Classroom section.


McLaughlin, M. ( 2001). Community Counts. Educational Leadership, 58,7,14-18.

Conrad, D., & Hedin, D. (1991). School-based community service: What we know from research and theory. Phi Delta Kappan, June, 743-749.