Learning Communities:

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					Learning Communities:
LaGuardia Instructional Staff
May 3, 2006

    A Brief History & Rationale
    Will Koolsbergen
    and Phyllis van Slyck
Basic Definition:
   A variety of approaches that link or cluster
    classes during a given term, often around an
    interdisciplinary theme, and enroll a common
    cohort of students.

   This represents an intentional restructuring of
    students’ time, credit, and learning experiences
    to build community and to foster more explicit
    connections among students and their teachers
    and among disciplines.” Gabelnick, MacGregor,
    Matthews, Smith
Learning Communities respond to key
academic issues:
   Mismatched
   Inadequate interaction—
   Lack of coherence among
   Lack of resources for
    faculty development
   Student non-completion
   Growing complexity and
    interdependence of
    problems we face
What we Know about Learning
Community Students (AAHE 2000)
     Complete courses and persist at higher rates
     Succeed academically at higher rates
     Report higher degree of personal growth
     Report high to significant gains in
         Learning skills
         Content
         Ability to see other points of view
         Analytical skills
     Bond to collegiate institutions
     Develop into
         Active, responsible learners
         Community minded individuals
     The Experimental College, University
     of Wisconsin: Alexander Meiklejohn
   Predicted that narrow departments would
    make it difficult to raise important
    interdisciplinary issues
   Fragmented nature of the curriculum
    would frustrate committed teachers trying
    to create a sense of deep engagement and
   Developed two-year interdisciplinary,
    team taught, coordinated studies program
   Theme: democracy—fifth century Athens
    to 20th century America
   Active learning, problem-based seminars;
    living learning environment for faculty and
The Experimental College, continued
   Course of study “shall not be a series of
    disconnected readings or separate topics
    whose relations are left undetermined”
   To become intelligent is to “use your mind in
    such a way that connections are established”
   The mind must be given “active work to do”:
    to understand to deduce, to infer, to connect,
    to understand a field in relation to a larger
   Phrase: “communities of learners” introduced

Meiklejohn, Alexander. The Experimental College,
  Chapter 5
Educational Change in the 1960’s
   Higher education
    doubles in size
   Community college
    system is born
   Cluster colleges are
    established at
   Non-traditional
    institutions are
    created: Hampshire,
    Marlborough, Reed,
The Evergreen State College, 1969
   Licensed to create a whole
    new kind of institution
   Team taught integrated
    programs: 12-16 credits
   No majors; no faculty rank,
    no departments; instead
    evolving areas of study:
   Culture, Text and
    Arts,Native American and
    World Indigenous Peoples'
    Inquiry;Society, Politics,
    Behavior and Change
   Emphasis on
    interdisciplinary education,
    active learning, connecting
    theory to practice
Stonybrook, 1970 (Patrick Hill—
Philosophy professor)
   Concerned about fragmentation of curriculum
    and isolation of students
   Promotes concept and term: “learning
   Developed federated learning communities
   Definition: a group of students travel together
    and study together—sometimes with faculty or
    graduate mentor--like a small “federation”—in
    larger classes.
LaGuardia Community College, 1971
   Innovative faculty wanted to
    work across disciplines
   mid 1970’s Freedom
    Clusters were designed:
    freedom and seeing,
    freedom and listening,
    freedom and speech…
   All liberal arts students took
    (and still take) an
    introductory cluster of 12
    credits; expanded to include
    l.a. science students
   English Comp, Research
    Paper, two other liberal arts
    /sciences courses
   In the 1990’s an integrated,
    team taught seminar hour
    was added
Vincent Tinto, Syracuse
   First large scale assessment of why students
    leave college
   Studied LaGuardia, Seattle Central CC and Univ
    of Washington
   Conclusion was that learning communities
    addressed retention and success issues,
    especially for first year and developmental
   LaGuardia’s New Student House, for example,
    demonstrated a 95% retention rate at end of first
    and second years as contrasted to 20% retention
    for basic skills students studying outside House
Liberal Arts Clusters at
   ENG 101 – Composition

   ENG 103 – The Research Paper

   HUP 101 – Introduction to Philosophy

   HUC 170 – Art of Theatre

   LIB 110 – Integrated Hour
Sample schedule for liberal
arts cluster: gods and monsters

Eng 101   m, th     1:00 – 3:15
Eng 103   t         1:00 – 3:15
Hup 101   M, t, th 10:30 – 11:30
Huc 170   w         9:15 – 12:45
Lib 110   w         1:00 – 2:00
  Learning Community Pedagogy
Derives from:
  Dewey’s ideas about experience and reflection, democracy and
   community (1890’s-1930’s), Piaget” assimilation-accomodation theory
   of learning (1920’s-1970’s), Bruner’s constructivist learning theory
   (1920’s-1980’s), and Vygotsky ‘s situated learning theory (1920’s-
  Constructivism, discovery learning--education based on cognitive
   theory: we construct ideas based on current and past knowledge.
  Knowledge is physically, symbolically and socially constructeed
   constructed by learners who are involved in active learning.
Also influenced by:
  Donald Schon, 1973—What are the characteristics of effective
   learning? What demands are made on a person who engages in this
   kind of learning? Reflection in action
  David A Kolb, 1975—experiential learning: concrete experience;
   observation and reflection, conceptualization, testing in new situations
Active Learning Strategies in
Learning Communities
Student-led seminars, debates, improvisations
 Problem-based learning (case studies)
 Critical thinking approaches (multiple perspectives)
 Collaborative projects and responses
 Service learning and field study
 Reflection and assessment occasions

                   Faculty repositioning:
   “From the sage on the stage to the guide on the
Core Practices in Learning
   Community—faculty & student collaboration; academic &
    social connections; shared purpose & satisfaction

   Active Learning—learning in social context; problem
    based learning; students take responsibility for learning; team projects

   Integration—curricular coherence across disciplines;
    students construct meaning

   Diversity—looking at issues from multiple perspectives;
    acknowledging and attending to diverse learning styles

   Reflection and Assessment—examining prior
    knowledge and assumptions; identifying learning outcomes: how have you
   More than 600 institutions
    nationwide; numerous
    regional and national
   LaGuardia continues to
    be a national leader
   Washington Center lists
    more than 300 learning
   LaGuardia’s learning
    community website:
     Alexander Astin, What
     Matters in College: Four
     Critical Years Revisited,
    Stephen J. Brookfield,
     Becoming a Critically
     Reflective Teacher, 1996.
    Parker Palmer, The
     Courage to Teach, 1998.
    Smith, Barbara Leigh et al.
     Learning Communities:
     Reforming Undergraduate
     Education, 2004
    John Tagg, The Learning
     Paradigm College, 2003

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