Tribes - A New Way of Learning and Being Together

What is Tribes?

Tribes is a democratic group process, not just a curriculum or set of cooperative activities. The outcome of the Tribes process is to develop a positive environment that promotes human growth and learning. How does this happen? Can anyone do it? Yes! It requires learning how to build a community through three stages of group development using five agreements among the students with whom you are working.

  • Mutual Respect
  • Attentive Listening
  • Show Appreciations
  • No Put Downs
  • Right to Pass

Throughout the process people learn to use specific collaborative skills, and to reflect both on the interaction and the learning that is taking place. The Tribes process not only establishes a caring environment for cooperative learning, but provides structure for positive interaction and continuity for working groups, whether in the classroom, the faculty, the administration or the parent community.

Tribes in the Classroom

Tribes are formed sociometrically to distribute boys and girls, students of high and low peer acceptance, and people of heterogeneous abilities. Although students have the opportunity to name others whom they would like to have in their Tribe, the teacher determines who will be in each group. People are seated together in a small circle or square of desks, or at the same table. Unlike many cooperative-learning approaches being used in schools today, Tribes stay together over a long period of time.

The power of being included and valued by peers motivates students to active participation in their own learning. Positive expectations and support from an ongoing group of peers is the reason in Tribes Learning Communities become excited about learning.

A Shared Mission and Goal

The mission of Tribes is:

To assure the healthy development of every child so that each has the knowledge, skills, and resiliency to be successful in a rapidly changing world.

Children's learning and development are influenced by the key systems of their lives - family, school, friends, and community. Schools working toward this developmental goal encourage all of the systems involved in learning to use the same caring Tribes process and collaborative skills.

The goal for a Tribes school is:

To engage all teachers, administrators, students, and families in working together as a learning community that is dedicated to caring and support, active participation, and positive expectations for all students.