Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Learning Communities

Learning communities have become popular at many community colleges, especially in the below-college levels--both developmental ed and ESL. They involve grouping 2 or more courses together, so that the same group of students takes all of the linked courses together.

However, learning communities offer more than simply paired courses (another common strategy employed in developmental education). The courses that are grouped combine college-level courses with developmental courses. The faculty teaching the courses work together, sharing materials and lessons, and sometimes even syllabi and assignments. Thus, the developmental course(s) teach with a focus on the college-level course grouped with it.

For example, a school might group a Psychology 101 course with a developmental reading and writing course. The reading and writing assignments would have a psychology focus, which gives the students a sense of purpose in their developmental courses and extra help mastering the new lexicon involved in the field of psychology. In addition, because the same group of students meet for more than one class together, they are more likely to turn to each other as a support system for the classes. They contact each other for missed classes and may even form study groups.

They also allow students in developmental classes to start taking college-level courses earlier and have been shown to increase retention of below-college-level students. As more and more colleges' government funding becomes tied to retention and completion, learning communities may be turned to more as avenues to improving student success rates.
Image source: http://www.defl.ca/en/ecole.html.