Learning Communities

Summary of reform: Learning communities are a deliberate restructuring of the curriculum to build a small community of learners among students and faculty within the larger structure of the university or college. Learning communities generally redefine the curriculum so that students are actively engaged in a sustained academic relationship with other students and faculty over a longer period of their time than is possible in traditional courses. Learning communities help to change the culture of an institution toward collaboration between academic and student affairs and among faculty in terms of shared teaching, syllabi, and student mentoring.

Level of institutionalization: Structural and curricular changes are necessary to create learning communities so institutional commitment tends to be strong.

Outcomes: Students feel more motivated and empowered, retention of content and institutional retention of students both improve within learning communities. Students develop peer groups and friendships, including students who commute and are not on the campus in a traditional full-time fashion; students are better able to integrate social and academic needs.

Resistances: Some resistance exists, due to the perceived need for extensive additional resources to make structural changes. Some faculty resist teaching classes in residence halls, team-teaching or working collaboratively.

Evolution/History: Learning communities evolved out of the concept of living and learning environments. What makes this reform distinct is that it focuses more on curricular and pedagogical changes that enhance linking and coordinating of curriculum rather than out-of-classroom experiences.

Link to suggested readings: Articles on Learning Communities

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