Learning Community Seminars by xiangpeng


									                                         Learning Community Seminar 1

               Learning Community Seminars

             At Bunker Hill Community College

           Analysis of an Organizational Problem

                      Philip Scialdoni

EDU 811: Administration and Organization in Higher Education

                     Professor Neville

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   The purpose of this paper is to analysis an organizational problem, issue, and change

occurring at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC). First, the paper will explain the

context by describing BHCC. Then the paper will give a case summary about the

problem, issue, and change taking place at BHCC. After a summary of the situation

taking place at BHCC, the paper will infuse connections between the case and the four

frames described in Bolman and Deal (2003). The four frames are the structural frame,

human resources frame, political frame, and symbolic frame. Once a connection has been

made between the case and the four frames, the paper will come to a conclusion and give

two recommendations based on the frame that is giving BHCC the biggest problem.
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    Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), founded in 1973, is located in

Charlestown, Massachusetts with a population of 9,500 students (Laflamme, 2009).

BHCC is minutes outside of the city of Boston and a stones through away from the

historical Bunker Hill Monument. BHCC has five satellites in and around Boston, as well

as a second campus in a nearby, poverty stricken city with failing high schools, Chelsea.

The location of BHCC is perfect, for what the Title III Proposal Design Team (2005)

describes as the reason for the foundation of the school. The team states that BHCC was

founded “to provide an open door to higher education and career advancement for the

residents of Boston’s many urban neighborhoods…particularly the economically and

academically disadvantaged (p. 1).” This corresponds to the mission statement of BHCC:

         Bunker Hill Community College is a public institution of higher education
         offering programs and courses of study including arts and science, nursing
         and allied health, domestic and international business, hospitality and
         culinary arts, early childhood development, electronics and computer
         applications. The College supports open access to post-secondary
         education by providing a range of educational opportunities that include
         distance learning, self-directed learning and an honors program. The
         College offers an entry-level assessment program for new incoming
         students, a sound foundation in developmental studies and, for non-native
         English speaking students, a variety of levels of English as a Second
         Language (ESL) instruction. The student body reflects the diversity of the
         urban community and an essential part of the college's mission is to
         encourage this diversity. The College seeks to become a national model
         for successfully incorporating the strengths of many cultures, ethnic
         backgrounds, age groups and learning styles into the curricular and
         extracurricular life of the institution. Bunker Hill Community College
         seeks to enhance its position as a primary educational and economic asset
         for the Commonwealth through cooperative planning and program
         implementation involving neighboring institutions of higher education, the
         public schools, community organizations, and area businesses and
         industries. (BHCC Mission, 2009)
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       The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education governs over BHCC and the

eleven members of the Board of Trustees. The executive leadership of the college

includes the president and her management team: “the Executive Vice President & Chief

Financial Officer, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, the vice president for Student

Services and Enrollment Management, the Executive Dean of Institutional Effectiveness,

the Dean of The BHCC Foundation & Chief Policy Advisor, and the Director of

Diversity & Inclusion (Title III, 2005, p. 2).” According to the Title III Proposal Design

Team (2005), “the executive leadership, along with over 350 faculty, staff, and

administrators, collaborate to create a “dynamic educational environment” with an array

of programs of study, student services, and community-based learning opportunities (p.

2).” BHCC is the most realistic option for the people living in poor urban areas, in and

around Boston, to receive the education necessary to get jobs in today’s economy.

Summary of the Problem:

       Over the past ten years, colleges and universities have been offering first-year

seminars in the hope to increase student engagement, retention, persistence, and program

completion (Laflamme, 2009, p. 1). BHCC has jumped on the band wagon by creating

their own first-year seminars, called the Learning Community Seminars (LCS). The

proposal for these seminars was created by a Title III Proposal Design Team, which is

part of the “Building the Engaged Campus” initiative (Office of Institutional

Advancement, BHCC). According to Laflamme, the idea for BHCC to start the Learning

Community Seminars began in 2005 (p. 1). It was created as “part of a strategy to

increase student engagement, retention, persistence and program completion” at the
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college (Office of Institutional Advancement, BHCC). The Title III Proposal Design

Team (2005) sites the increase in student drop out rates and the fact that many students

have stopped returning to the college as good reasons to develop first-year seminars at the


        The driving force of the Title III activity, therefore, is to tackle head-on issues of
        persistence, retention, and achievement by constructing an engaged campus that
        features an interlocked chain of academic, student services, and interpersonal
        connections among students, faculty and staff. (Title III, 2005)

        A variety of First-Year seminars have been put into place at colleges and

universities across the country. A study conducted by the National Survey on First-Year

Seminars was conducted in 2006, and the results show that “learning communities

provide many benefits and improve a number of skills that are essential for academic and

college success (Laflamme, 2009, p.3).” According to the survey the benefits include

improved peer connections, improved satisfaction with the institution, increased use of

services offered on campus, increased student and faculty interaction out of class,

increase participation of students in activities, increased academic abilities, increased and

improved grade point averages (National Survey on First-Year Seminars, 2006).

        The First-Year Seminar initiative at BHCC began October 1st , 2006 and is

scheduled to continue through September 30, 2011 (Building the Engaged Campus,

2005). According to the Learning Community Seminar Faculty Team’s proposal to the

Curriculum Committee (Faculty Memo, 2009):

        The Learning Community Seminar is designed to help incoming students make a
        successful transition to College. The Seminar enables students to reflect and
        assess; discover their strengths; explore career interests; set goals and problem
        solve; connect with peers, faculty and staff; develop critical thinking, information
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       literacy and communication skills; collaborate in active, diverse learning
       environments; and make connections between classroom learning and the larger
       community. Each Learning Community Seminar explores a different theme.
       Students may choose a Seminar based on their program of study or general

At first only first-year, full time students were allowed to sign up for the seminars, but

due to the fact that the seminars were not filling up the college opened the seminars up to

any student interested in taking them. The original designs of these seminars were not

created for these students, so the design of the seminars had to be changed. According to

Laflamme, information about the requirements of the Title III Grant for the funding of

the Building an Engaged Campus initiative and the Learning Community Seminars were

not available for her case. The cost of the initiative will average close to $1.9 million

(About the Engaged Campus Initiative, 2008).

       Laflamme (2009) states that due to the abundant documentation that site the

benefits of the seminars, BHCC has proposed to make these seminars a permanent

requirement for first-year students (p. 4). There are some skeptics among the academic

departments about making these seminars a requirement. BHCC created an “Ad Hoc

committee to focus on the issue and make recommendations (Laflamme, 2009 p. 4).” The

committee came to an agreement that all first time, full time students (with some

exceptions) are required to take the Learning Community Seminar by the end of their

second semester (Ad Hoc Committee, 2008).

       The benefits of first year seminars are clear. There are still people on the BHCC

campus that disagree with making the Learning Community Seminars mandatory for all

first-year full time students. Laflamme (2009) sites one group in particular who have
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voice their concerns through a memo to the Academic Affairs Committee, Curriculum

Committee, Learning Community Seminar Institutionalization Committee and the

Director of Learning Communities (p. 5). The group Laflamme (2009) is referring to is

the Faculty.

       The Faculty sent all the Committees mentioned a memo with a list of their

concerns. The first issue the faculty has with the Learning Community Seminars is that

the amount of credits the students receives from participating in the Seminars. The

faculty believe that if a student is taking a course that helps them develop “college level

skills” then the course should not give the student college level credits (Laflamme, 2009,

p. 5). The faculties memo (2009) states, “If a major goal of these courses is to give

students college level skills then that seems in conflict with giving college level credit for

this type of course… they should be more appropriately give sub-100 level credit as they

serve a remedial function.” The faculty does not believe these Learning Community

Seminars should be worth a full three credits. Another issue the faculty has with the

seminars being a requirement is that every program would have to change their

requirements by removing a course, making certain classes optional, or leaving

everything the same (Faculty Memo, 2009). If the programs leave everything the same

then the students would have to take the seminar on top of all the other courses required

in the program (Laflamme, 2009).

       The faculty also sites scheduling issues and they are wondering what the real

reason for making the seminars a requirement as other concerns they have in their memo.

If all of the first-year full time students have to take the Learning Community Seminars
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then more seminars will need to be added (Faculty Memo, 2009). The faculty’s memo

states that “no one can deny that we have scheduling issues… which of our existing

courses will have to be potentially removed from our schedule to make room for the large

number of LCS sections that are planned (Faculty Memo, 2009)?” The faculty also states

in the memo their concern about having more students in their classes because of the


       The faculty is also wondering what the schools real reason is for making the LCS

a requirement. “The strong push to institutionalize these courses by making them more

attractive with inappropriate college level credit seems to be driven more by our need to

fulfill the requirements of the grant than what is in the best interest of the College

(Faculty Memo, 2009).” There I no evidence that supports this statement because the

requirements for the grant were not available. This does show that there is some distrust

between the faculty and the decision makers at the college.

       It is hard to gain the support of everyone at a college on any topic, but Laflamme

(2009) states that issue is how to gain the support of the entire faculty for the LCS being a

requirement (p.6). The issue with the amount of credits the LCS courses are worth also

needs to be solved. It is very important to have the support of the faculty for the LCS

initiative to be a success. Finally, BHCC needs to find a way to make a compromise

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Structural Frame:

       Colleges and Universities are complex organizations. According to Bolman and

Deal (2003) organizations are not only complex, they are “surprising, deceptive, and

ambiguous, they are formidably difficult to understand and manage (p.40).” The people

who work in organizations, like colleges and universities, bring their past experiences

with them to work. Bolman and Deal (2003) describe these things as “preconceived

theories and images” that “determine what we see, what we do, and what we accomplish

(p.40).” The Structural Frame is one of four lenses, or perspectives, that Bolman and Deal

(2003) use to enable managers and leaders of organizations to deal with the “complexity,

ambiguity, value dilemmas, political pressures, and multiple constituencies” of

organizations that will help these “managers and leaders find clarity and meaning amid

the confusion of organizational life (p.40).”

       The structural frame is one of the most common ways of thinking about

organizations. An organizational chart is an example of how the structural frame sees

organization. All of the top dogs are at the top and all the grunts are at the bottom, there

is a clear hierarchy. “The frame is rooted in traditional rational images but goes much

deeper to develop versatile and powerful ways to understand social architecture and its

consequences (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 41).” Dolman and Deal (2003) describe the

structural frame as how organizations are “dividing up work and coordinating it thereafter

(p.42).” There are six assumptions for the structural frame:

       1. Organizations exist to achieve established goals and objectives.
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       2. Organizations increase efficiency and enhance performance through
       specialization and a clear division of labor.

       3. Appropriate forms of coordination and control ensure that diverse efforts of
       individuals and units mesh.

       4. Organizations work best when rationality prevails over personal preferences
       and extraneous pressures.

       5. Structures must be designed to fit an organization’s circumstances (including
       its goals, technology, workforce and environment).

       6. Problems and performance gaps arise from structural deficiencies and can be
       remedied through analysis and restructuring.

                                                      (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 45)

       The Structural Frame can be used to analysis the problem going on at BHCC.

Bolman and Deal (2003) refer to the way things are coordinated at BHCC as vertical

coordination. “With vertical coordination, higher levels coordinate and control the work

of subordinates through authority, rules and policies, and planning and control systems

(p.50).” The faculty at not happy with the way their authority figures are handling the

Learning Community Seminars. The higher levels at BHCC have created a proposal for

the LCS without consulting with the faculty to get their opinions about how the LCS

should be created and run. In this situation the third assumption of the structural model is

not being met. The higher ups, who are creating the LCS, are not meshing well with the

faculty, who will be affected greatly if the LCS is made mandatory for all first year full

time students.

       The fourth assumption of the structural frame is not being met. The faculty is not

being assured that the LCS becoming a requirement is not due to the extraneous pressures

to meet the requirements of the grant. The faculty is also wondering about the rational of
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LCS proposal because of scheduling issues. Higher ups at BHCC have not made it clear

to the faculty how they will fit these LCS into the schedule and how it will affect the

faculty in general. According to Bolman and Deal (2003) rules and policies need to be

clear and concise to “limit discretion and ensure predictability and uniformity (p.51).”

Among these is the concept of benchmarking, which the authority figures at BHCC have

not done for the LCS. The faculty is not happy with amount of credits given for the LCS

do to the lack of assessment and benchmarking of the program. “At the heart of

organizational design are the twin issues of differentiation and integration (Bolman and

Deal, 2003, p.67).” The situation going on at BHCC is due to a lack of integrating the

faculty’s opinions about the design of the LCS.

Human Resource Frame:

       According to Bolman and Deal (2003), “The human resource frame centers on

how characteristics of organizations and people shape what they do for one another

(p.111).” The human resource frame describes the ways organizations treat their

employees and how that treatment affects the work they do. Like the structural frame, the

human resource frame also makes assumptions:

       1. Organizations exist to serve human needs rather than the reverse.

       2. People and organizations need each other. Organizations need ideas, energy
       and talent; people need careers, salaries, and opportunities

       3. When the fit between individual and system is poor, one or both suffer.
       Individuals are exploited or exploit the organization- or both become victims

       4. A good fit benefits both. Individuals find meaningful and satisfying work, and
       organizations get the talent and energy they need to succeed.
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                                                       (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 115)

       The human resource frame can also be used to describe the problem going on at

BHCC. Bolman and Deal (2003) use Maslow’s theory to describe the 5 basic needs

people working in organizations need for “physiological well-being and safety (p. 117).”

The two that BHCC is not meeting is the third and fourth needs Maslow sites. The third

need is “Belongingness and love (needs for positive and loving relationships with other

people) (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p.117).” The fourth need is Esteem. Here people want

to feel valued and want to value themselves. Due to the lack of communication between

the faculty and the leaders of BHCC, about the LCS, the faculty feels like they, and their

opinions, are not valued by the school. The faculty is not experiencing any loving

relationships between them and the authority figures at BHCC.

       BHCC is not empowering the faculty. “Empowerment includes making

information available, but it doesn’t stop there. It also involves encouraging autonomy

and participation, redesigning work, fostering teams, promoting egalitarianism, and

giving work meaning (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p.143).” BHCC has not been encouraging

their faculty to help with the LCS, which resulted in the faculty’s memo expressing their

disapproval of the initiative. Organizations and their employees have a give and take

relationship and if their relationship is not balanced one or both suffer.

Political Frame:

       Many people have negative thoughts when they hear the word politics. According

to Bolman and Deal (2003) “politics are at the heart of decision making.” “Viewed from

the political frame, politics is simply the realistic process of making decisions and
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allocating resources in a context of scarcity and divergent interests (p. 181).” Similarly to

the previous two frames discussed, the political frame has five assumptions:

        1. Organizations are coalitions of diverse individuals and interest groups.

        2. There are enduring differences among coalition members in values, beliefs,
        information, interests, and perceptions of reality.

        3. Most important decisions involve allocating scarce resources- who gets what.

        4. Scarce resources and enduring differences make conflict central to
        organizational dynamics and underline power as the most important asset.

        5. Goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiating, and jockeying for
        position among competing stakeholders.

                                                      (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 186)

        These five assumptions can be used to analyze the issues going on at BHCC. All

five of the assumptions can be related to the situation at BHCC. There are two different

interest groups, with enduring differences, that are jockeying over scarce resources. In the

faculty’s memo they are expressing their concerns about the LCS. It seems like the

faculty is flexing their muscles to make sure BHCC’s leaders take notice. The faculty is

one of the most powerful stakeholders at a public college. Faculty are protected by there

union and the leaders at BHCC want to make sure that the faculty are happy, in order to

make sure nothing bad happens, like a strike. The scarce resource the faculty is worried

about is class room availability. They want to make sure that the LCS classes do not

affect the classes that are most important to them. The faculty wants to be part of the

bargaining and negotiations of the goals and decision making going into the LCS


Symbolic Frame: Not applicable in this case.
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        According to the Title III Proposal Design Team (2005) Bunker Hill Community

College was founded “to provide an open door to higher education and career

advancement for the residents of Boston’s many urban neighborhoods…particularly the

economically and academically disadvantaged (p. 1).” Due to all the success other first

year seminars have had across the country, the Learning Community Seminars at BHCC

should be a requirement for all first year, full time, students. There are some exceptions

that can be made. An Ad Hoc committee should be created to make proper exceptions to

the rule.

        To solve the issues the faculty has with the initiative should be relatively easy. It

is obvious that the faculty want to take part in the design and implementation of the

Learning Community Seminars. In order to get the faculty involve with the LCS, any and

all departments should be given the option to create Learning Community Seminars that

are specific their programs. This way the departments can create a course that up to their

standard and deserving of the full three college credits. First year seminars are great for

developing the skills for student success in college and will be needed until public high

schools, in and around urban areas, step up to the plate and prepare their students for

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About the Engaged Campus Initiative (2008). Bunker Hill Community College.

Ad Hoc Committee (2008). Bunker Hill Community College.

BHCC Mission and Vision (2009) Retrieved May 6th, 2009 from


Bolman, L. G. & Deal, T.E. (2003) Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and
      Leadership. San Francisco, CA; Jossey-Bass.

Building the Engaged Campus (2005). Bunker Hill Community College.

Faculty Memo (2009). Bunker Hill Community College.

Laflamme, L. (2009). Learning Community Seminars at Bunker Hill Community College:
      A Case Studeyi

Office of Institutional Advancement (n.d.). Bunker Hill Community College.

Title III Proposal Design Team (2005). Building an Engaged Campus: Increasing
         Student Persistence, Retention, and Achievement, Bunker Hill Community

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