Smaller Learning Communities

  • What are Small Learning Communities?

    By Definition:

    • Small learning communities are traditionally defined in terms of an individualized learning environment within a larger school setting.
    • Small learning communities also allow for a higher level of comfort between its students, teachers, and administrators; more of a sense of family, feelings of affiliation and belonging; and a level of mutual support between its members.
    • Furthermore, personalization is also encouraged through parent and community involvement whereby parents are viewed as allies in encouraging instructional support and educational progress.


    • Governance: The opportunity for a small group to come to agreement concerning issues in the community is essential in building relationships through knowing and understanding one another’s ideas regarding how the small learning community should operate.
    • Respect: Reflects upon the diversity apparent in many schools, it is important that students and teachers don’t “mis-hear” one another. A culture that promotes mutual respect based upon understanding the stakeholders in the environment is an integral part of a small learning community.
    • Simplicity: Focuses more attention on the needs of the students in the environment.
    • Safety: Discourages anonymity, thus there is often a sense of security because students are well known by people they feel truly care for them.
    • Parent Participation: Encourage parents not to be strangers, but instead to be allies in the educational process by teaming with the adults in the school who know and care for their children.
    • Accountability: Faculty can be held accountable for the classroom curriculum, and principals can be held accountable for the “temperature of the school.”
    • Sense of Belonging: Star athletes and academic geniuses are not the only students recognized in small learning communities. Every student is known and “habits of heart and mind” are not only passed on through classroom curriculum, but also more informally in the hallway or during lunch.

    Meier, D. (1996). The big benefits of smallness. Educational Leadership, 54(1), 12-15.