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Tribes Learning Community?

What is Tribes?

The process of Tribes, Tribes Learning Communities is hard to define in words as its impact is constantly changing.  The initial version of the Tribes process began to evolve in the early seventies by Jeanne Gibbs as a means to address children’s learning motivation, behaviour problems and good teachers leaving the profession.   Those remain issues today in education and extensive research has proven the current version of Tribes as an effective process.  It is NOT a curriculum, not a program or a collection of activities.

“It is an on-going goal-oriented process based on sound principles and practices that maximize academic, social and emotional development and learning for today’s children” (Preface).

“The MISSION OF TRIBES is to assure the healthy development of every child so that each has the knowledge, competency and resilience to be successful in today’s rapidly changing world.

The GOAL 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” (p.31).

With Tribes, over time the following has been reported:

  • the climate of the school becomes safe, caring and motivational for all- teachers as well as students

  • participation in active learning groups (tribes) leads to higher student performance

  • disruptive student problems fade away, giving teachers more time to teach

  • respect among multicultural, multiethnic and diverse student populations increases, and

  • teachers’ professional competency, collegiality and collaborative responsibility for students’ learning as well as whole school improvement increases (x).

The safe and caring school culture is created and sustained by the students, teachers and whole school community through daily use of four Tribes Agreements:

Attentive Listening    •    Appreciation/No Put Downs    •    Right to Participate & Right to Pass    •    Mutual Respect

The Tribes process leads groups through three stages:  from Inclusion to Influence and finally to Community.  There is a gradual shift from the teacher-facilitator directing inclusion activities to ultimately, transferring leadership to tribes within the community.

The Tribes Learning Experience has 5 Steps:

  1. Inclusion (introduce the learning experience)

  2. Objectives (content objective and collaborative skills learned or practiced)

  3. Implementation of strategies (explain, observe, monitor;  intervene if groups cannot resolve a problem or situation)

  4. Reflection/Accountability (reflection questions)

  5. Appreciation (invite statements of appreciation)

“If our schools graduate young people who are self-aware, can manage their emotions, are aware of others, have good relationship skills, and can solve problems effectively, we’ve given them a terrific start” (qtd on p.21).


Reaching All by Creating Tribes Learning Communities by Jeanne Gibbs, 30th Anniversary Edition


Discovering Gifts in Middle School- Learning in a Caring Culture Called Tribes by Jeanne Gibbs


Engaging ALL by Creating High School Learning Communities by Jeanne Gibbs & Teri Ushijima


What Is It About Tribes? The Research-Based Components of the Developmental Process of Tribes Learning Communities by Bonnie Benard


Guiding Your School Community to Live a Culture of Caring and Learning:  The Process is Called Tribes by Jeanne Gibbs

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