Designing The Learning Alliance

Where to Start?

I am often asked, where do you start in growing a self-organizing classroom?
More than likely, you are already doing it. Many teachers post positive expectations in the classroom or door and you go over classroom and school rules with your students during the first week or two of school. You are setting the climate for the school year. You are setting a tone for how you see your students, what their role as students are, and how they will see you. We just might have to tweak how we do it.

Setting the Climate for Self-Organization

In an Agile Classroom, the teacher and student grant power to the learning relationship. There is not a release of power, but a joining together so that the relationship grows in power.  Designing a Learning Alliance is a visible agreement between students and teachers of how they empower one another in their learning. It sets a climate of empowerment, collaboration, and achievement. It says the classroom as a whole are responsible for each others success. That student voice and choice is taken seriously. That the teacher and students are partners in the learning journey.

Unpacking the Learning Alliance

The Learning Alliance has four main components.
  1. Vision – by the end of the class, how will learners and the classroom be transformed?
  2. Values – identify shared values and how we demonstrate them.
  3. Roadmap – share the big picture learning objectives/goals for the class.
  4. Routines – establish clarity on the routines of how the classroom, learning, and decision making happens.

Benefits of the Learning Alliance

It is a visible accountability tool, reflecting back, in their words, what they agreed to. It establishes trust, clarity, and safety in the relationships. By being an active participant in designing the alliance, it says we see you as capable of making decisions and working together. You are a self-directed learner. You are a collaborative learner. As the relationship changes, the Learning Alliance is updated to reflect it.  It can be used as a whole classroom, teams, and for individual students.


I would love for you to share with us how you might be already doing this? How do you set the climate? How do you have students participate in the design? How can you make this a partnership and provide a sense of ownership versus a giving set of “Classroom Rules”?

We will be releasing a series of blog posts and resources that shares HOW to Design the Learning Alliance:

(Next Up) Post 2: Values – Values Statement Activity 

Want to Dive Deeper?

You can also attend an Agile Classroom workshop, where we go through Designing the Learning Alliance in more detail, and provide you the tools and resources to do so.  Contact us if you would love this for your classroom.

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