This is a group exercise that begins with each participant spending five minutes thinking and writing about the best learning community they have ever experienced. It may be a school, a church, or a summer camp. The location doesn’t matter, or the age at which the person experienced it – only that it was deeply meaningful to us, and real learning occurred.
In smaller groups, each person then shares his or her personal story, uninterrupted (4-5 min. each). The rest of the group takes notes and listens actively for key attributes that emerge. After a brief round of clarifying questions (1-3 min.), the group checks in with each other about what they heard (3-4 min.). Once everyone has a chance to tell their story, a central facilitator asks each group to reflect on their list and come up with the 3-5 most important attributes. These do not need to be the attributes that show up most often in the stories – a great attribute may have surfaced just once. Each list is then shared with the whole group. The resulting list of attributes, grounded in meaningful personal experiences, should help your group ground its work going forward in two key areas: First, the ways in which yourshared culture is already aligned to reflect what the community knows to be a powerful learning environment; and second, the areas in which it must improve.