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Learning Community Models

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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586

Two courses are paired, and the same group of students takes both classes. In a clustered model, three or four courses are linked together, and the same group of students takes the entire cluster. Often the courses have a common theme.

Folks:

The posting below looks at five learning community models. It is from Chapter 1: Learning Communities: An Overview, by Ruth Federman Stein in Building and Sustaining Learning Communities, The Syracuse University Experience, by Sandra N. Hurd and Ruth Federman Stein of Syracuse University. Published by Anker Publishing Company, Inc., 176 Ballville Road, P.O. Box 249, Bolton, MA 01740-0249 USA (www.ankerpub.com). Copyright ? 2004 by Anker Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. ISBN 1-882982-68-1. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

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Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

 

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LEARNING COMMUNITY MODELS

 

In 1990, Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, and Smith described five learning community models. Since then, they and others have simplified the number of models (Goodsell Love & Tokuno, 1999; Shapiro & Levine, 1999). Each model is quite flexible and may have various configurations. Indeed, each institution that initiates learning communities tends to put its own particular imprint on the model, based on its own structure, curricula, and student profiles. The traditional learning community models are described in a general way here.

Students in Large Classes

Curricular Design

Small groups of students can be linked together in several courses as subsets of larger classes. Often known as a Freshman Interest Group (FIG), this model gives freshmen a support system for large classes. Each FIG typically has a one-credit seminar led by an upperclass student attached to it.

Faculty Responsibilities

This model does not contemplate faculty having to change the way they do their work. Faculty do not have to coordinate their syllabi or do any co-planning with the faculty from the other linked courses although some faculty choose to do so. They may meet with the subset(s) of students at the beginning of the semester to welcome the students and introduce themselves and their courses.

Peer Leadership Possibilities

A peer advisor meets with the group at the beginning of the semester and then continues to meet with the group on a weekly basis to discuss adjustment issues, campus resources, study groups, or just to talk about student concerns and issues. The peer advisor also draws the intellectual connections among the academic courses in the FIG.

Circular Possibilities

Activities are organized by the peer leader and could involve having dinner together, attending a cultural event, or having an informal get-together.

Paired or Clustered Courses

Curricular Design

Two courses are paired, and the same group of students takes both classes. In a clustered model, three or four courses are linked together, and the same group of students takes the entire cluster. Often the courses have a common theme.

Faculty Responsibilities

In paired classes, faculty may coordinate their syllabi and some assignments though they teach individually. The amount of coordination varies, often depending upon faculty commitment. In clustered courses faculty plan together on a regular basis to build intellectual connections and to reinforce common expectations.

Peer Leadership Possibilities

Usually paired courses do not include peer leaders, but they can be used for advising, tutoring, or as undergraduate teaching assistants. In clustered courses, peers may assist with or help teach weekly discussion groups.

Curricular Possibilities

If classes are scheduled in a block, faculty can plan common activities such as field trips, speakers, or experiential learning activities.

Team-Taught Learning Communities

Curricular Design

Courses may have various configurations, but faculty generally develop a common theme that fits the disciplines involved in the community.

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty work together to select the theme, plan the curriculum, and teach the courses.

Peer Leadership Possibilities

Team-taught learning communities have opportunities for peer leadership, ranging from weekly discussions about various aspects of the interdisciplinary programming to planning committees that work along with the faculty.

Curricular Possibilities

Because these learning communities are often full-time, many different kinds of experiences can be incorporated into the block of time, ranging from community building activities, to field trips, to book discussions, to service learning. Sometimes a seminar is included that relates all the courses in the learning community.

Residence Hall Based Learning Communities

Curricular Design

The curriculum design varies from a single course, paired or clustered courses or team-taught courses. Residence halls can also be used for classes.

Faculty Responsibilities

This type of learning community requires coordination with residence life and student affairs staff. Faculty may visit the residence hall to participate in various programs, may eat in the dining hall with groups of students, may hold classes or have offices in the residence hall, or may even live in the residence hall.

Peer Leadership Possibilities

Students have many options for leadership in this environment as they may participate in learning community committees within the residence hall. Upper-division students and RAs have multiple opportunities for becoming involved with the learning community.

Curricular Possibilities

Numerous opportunities exist for connecting the intellectual life of the classroom to life in the residence hall: discussion groups, speakers, service projects, transition to college life, community building, or academic support.

References

Gabelnick, F., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R.S., & Smith, B.L. (1990). New directions for teaching and learning: No. 41. Learning communities: Creating connections among students, faculty, and disciplines. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Goodsell Love, A., & Tokuno, K.A. (1999). Learning community models. In J.H. Levine (Ed.), Learning communities: New structures, new partnerships for learning (pp. 9-17). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.