In any classroom, it is important to establish a sense of community. In my own efforts to build classroom community each year with my kindergarten students, I first discuss the differences between our classroom expectations and routines and the routines and expectations at home. Once we establish that our experience together is unique and is different than what we experience outside of our classroom, the work of getting to know one another, appreciating one another, and recognizing how each individual contributes to our classroom community begins. When this is successful, even at the young age of five, children support each other with language that is taught explicitly and modeled, strengths of individuals are recognized, children feel confident in suggesting new ideas, and most importantly everyone is appreciated for who they are and what the bring to our community.
The importance of social interaction when learning and constructing knowledge has been well documented by researchers in the field of education (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999; Greeno, Collins, & Resnick 1996). Extended discussion of ideas and collaboration of groups can lead to higher levels of reasoning (Hogan, Nastasti, & Pressley, 2000).
In our readings this week, I noticed a link between the article on cultural capital by Tara J. Rosso (2005), the study on managing uncertainty by Michelle E. Jordan and Reuban McDaniel Jr. (2014), and classroom community building. In their research study, Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams: The role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activities, Jordan & McDaniel (2014), studied the roles of peer interaction in collaborative problem solving.
Jordan and McDaniel (2014) specifically focused on what happens in a collaborative group when one of the members experiences uncertainty. What they found was that when confronted with this disruption in progress of the group work, peer responses varied in nature. These responses were either socially supportive to the child possessing the uncertainty or the peer responses were unsupportive (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014). If the support was not supportive, it caused some issues in the cohesiveness of the group and the ability of the child with the uncertainty to continue on with the group flow. Their findings suggested that in addition to teacher support, peer support is important if children are going to successfully participate in collaborative learning projects (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014).
After reading this, I immediately thought of my experiences over the years in building a supportive classroom community as well as the ideas presented by Tara J. Rosso (2005) in the article, Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. In this article, Rosso (2005) discussed the importance of recognizing the value of the capital that children possess from their own experiences in their culture, family, and communities. Learning, sharing and celebrating these types of capital can be beneficial when building individuality and a feeling of importance in a classroom community, but it can also help when children are learning how to work and support each other in collaborative groups. Explicit attention given to the qualities of each child’s capital modeled by the teacher can help the children recognize individual strengths in each other when in collaborative learning situations.
When I think about my explicit efforts to build community, these readings really helped me to realize that not only will a focus on the capital that each child brings to the classroom help build a classroom community and a sense of belongingness, but it may also help with higher level thinking skills and higher quality problem solving at the group level. I can see activities at the kindergarten level that will help support this type of recognition in the beginning of the year, such as family sharing and star student, but my hope would be that with daily modeling and encouraging, the children would develop the supportive thoughts and language that would not only help them recognize individuals and how they uniquely contribute to a group, but also offer a community where it is common to encourage and respect everyone in the community to avoid debilitating unsupportive peer interactions and responses.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A., and Cocking, R. (1999). How people learn: Brain-mind experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Greeno, J.G., Collins, A. M., & Resnick, L. B., (1996). Cognition and Learning. In D. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds)., Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 15-46). New York, NY: Macmillan.
Hogan, K., Nastasti, B. K., & Pressley, M. (2000). Discourse patterns and collaborative scientific reasoning in peer and teacher guided discussions. Cognition and Instruction, 17, 379-432.
Jordan, M.E. & McDaniel, R.R., (2014). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activities. The Journal of Learning Sciences, 00, 1-47.
Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1, 69-81.