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Innovative Educators Presents Creating Learning Communities to Enhance Student Success. Dr. Jodi Levine Laufgraben Temple University. Focus for this Webinar. Things to consider when… Developing Overview of models and definitions Implementation issues Sustaining Benefits

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innovative educators presents creating learning communities to enhance student success

Innovative Educators Presents Creating Learning Communitiesto Enhance Student Success

Dr. Jodi Levine Laufgraben

Temple University

focus for this webinar
Focus for this Webinar

Things to consider when…

  • Developing
    • Overview of models and definitions
    • Implementation issues
  • Sustaining
    • Benefits
    • Maintenance issues
  • Assessing
    • Methods
    • Outcomes

Learning Communities.


After this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the goals and purposes of implementing learning communities on their campus
  • Describe the basic definitions and models of learning communities
  • Imagine a learning community offering
  • List the implementation and sustainability issues facing their campus’ efforts
  • Consider ways of assessing learning communities
background knowledge probe
Background: Knowledge Probe

Before we start, take a few moments to answer the following questions:

A learning community is…

“Our Campus” is implementing learning communities to…

Evidence of success will include…

Background Knowledge Probe is a classroom assessment technique that can be found in Angelo and Cross (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. Jossey-Bass.

your responses
Your responses

With your colleagues, share your response to the question:

“Our Campus is implementing learning communities to…”

..And email me (Q&A feature) some of your answers for the group discussion.

aims goals of learning communities
Aims/Goals of Learning Communities

It begins with goals…

  • Increase curricular coherence
  • Promote deep learning
  • Connect skill and content areas
  • Build community
  • Revitalize faculty
  • Revitalize the institution
  • Promote diversity
  • Enhance student engagement
  • Increase retention
  • Enhance student achievement

Curricular Learning Communities

What is a Learning Community?A variety of approaches that link or cluster classes during a given term, often around an interdisciplinary theme, that enroll a common cohort of students. This represents an intentional restructuring of students’ time, credit and learning experiences to foster more explicit intellectual connections between students, between students and their faculty, and between disciplines.Source: Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, and Smith (1990) Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty and Disciplines. Jossey-Bass.

dimensions of lcs
Dimensions of LCs
  • Student collaboration
  • Faculty collaboration
  • Curricular coordination
  • Shared setting
  • Interactive pedagogy

Where is your campus on each dimension?


Love, A.G. and Tokuno, K.A. (1999) Learning communities models. In J. Levine (Ed.) Learning Communities: New Structures, New Partnerships for Learning. Columbia, South Carolina: National Center for the Freshman Year Experience and Students in Transition Monograph Series.

learning and community as both means and end
“Learning” and “Community” as both means and end

COMMUNITY as a strategy to strengthen LEARNING


LEARNING to work and to understand more deeply the value and challenges of COMMUNITY

Slide provided by Jean MacGregor, National Learning Communities Project,

The Evergreen State College

learning communities can be structured as
Learning Communities can be structured as:

Programs in which a small cohort of students enrolls in larger classes that faculty DO NOT coordinate. Intellectual connections and community- building often take place in an additional integrative seminar.


Programs of two or more classes linked thematically or by content, which a cohort of students takes together. The faculty DO plan the program collaboratively.

Programs of coursework that faculty members team-teach. The course work is embedded in an integrated program of study.

shading represents the student cohort

f i g s freshman interest groups
“F.I.G.’s” - Freshman Interest Groups

Goal: The creation of small effective academic learning communities in a large college setting.

Vehicle: Triads of courses offered around an area of interest, an interdisciplinary topic, or courses related to a specific major. Each F.I.G. has a peer advisor, a more advanced student who convenes the group weekly to form study groups, to learn about campus resources, and to plan social gatherings.

American Government


Intro. to Philosophy: Ethics




Fundamentals of

Public Speaking


F.I.G. Discussion Group

linked or paired courses
Linked or Paired Courses
  • Goal: Curricular coherence and integrating skill and content teaching
  • Two courses for which students co-register.
  • Generally, faculty work to coordinate syllabi and assignments, but teach their classes separately.
  • Often, a writing or speech course is linked to a lecture-centered course, or a mathematics course is linked to a science course.
some examples
Some Examples

American Political Systems

College Composition

College Math

Introduction to Psychology

General Chemistry


First-Year Writing

Introduction to Philosophy



team taught coordinated studies
Team Taught Coordinated Studies

Two, three or more courses fully team-taught as an integrated program.


  • More intensive student immersion in interrelated topics, a theme or question
  • Faculty participating as learners as well as teachers
  • The blurring of boundaries between disciplines or courses in favor of a larger whole
  • The faculty development that emerges from collaboratively planning, delivering and reflecting on a coordinated program
coordinated studies sample schedule
Coordinated StudiesSample Schedule

Problems Without Solutions?

A year-long program at

The Evergreen State College

successful learning community implementation
Successful Learning Community Implementation

Successful Learning Community implementation requires extensive cross-unit coordination:

Goals for the

LC Effort

Faculty Recruitment

Assessment Evaluation

Faculty Development Support

Program Delivery

Locus of Learning Community Leadership

Registrar Registration

LC Offerings Models


Student Recruitment




- Time

- Rooms


of Academic Advisors

critical elements of the change process
Critical Elements of the Change Process

Learning Communities represent a transformation in how we think about structuring teaching and learning environments.

Impetus for Change

Administrative Support

Leadership Team

Comprehensive View/Shared Vision

Strategic Plan

Inclusive Planning

Student-Focused Goals

Faculty Involvement

Project Director




Incentives and Rewards

Source: National Learning Communities Project

teaching in communities
Teaching in Communities
  • Responsibility for learning is shared with student
  • Teacher:
    • Invests expertise into designing new learning tasks
    • Performs helping functions
      • probing
      • encouraging
      • explaining
    • Listens to students
    • Evaluates and assesses student learning and tasks
successful teaching practices
Successful Teaching Practices
  • Use information technology
  • Allow as much time as possible for pre-semester community planning
  • Anticipate problems
  • Consider the community plan “bendable”
  • Frequently debrief and adjust plan

Adapted from Strommer, “Teaching and Learning in a Learning Community”

successful teaching practices in lcs
Successful Teaching Practices in LCs
  • Emphasize active learning approaches
  • Allow time for process
  • Build in classroom assessment
  • Feature a “community-defining event” early in the term
    • Attend a film, concert or theatrical performance
    • Participate in a community service project

Successful learning communities create or deepen the connections between and among students and teachers…


  • Students with each other
  • Students with their teachers
  • Faculty with each other


  • Between academic disciplines
  • Between in-class work and homework
  • Between theory and practice


  • Academic programs and residence life
  • Academic Affairs and Student Affairs
  • Students with academic advising and support resources
critical elements to sustaining lcs
Critical Elements to Sustaining LCs
  • Organizational dynamics and change as a process
  • Purposes of learning communities
  • Integration of LCs with mission of the institution
  • Expansion of LC leadership across campus
  • Continued buy-in and involvement of new faculty
  • Extent of curricular integration
  • Sustained faculty development
  • Availability of resources
  • Assessment, and…

New ideas, new energy,

new vision!

Source: Love, A.G. in Levine Laufgraben & Shapiro (2004),

Sustaining and Improving Learning Communities. Jossey-Bass.

the 10 minute community
The 10 minute Community

Consider what courses/disciplines you might like to bring together to create a community around this theme. Discuss the type of learning community (FIG, link, …) how the theme will be addressed across the courses, assignments or learning activities for students, and teaching strategies to engage students in active and collaborative learning.

Theme: A Different Angle

Report out in just 10 minutes!!!

effective learning communities
Effective LearningCommunities

Effective Learning Communities have a number of distinctive features:

  • They are usually smaller than most other units on campus.
  • They have a sense of purpose.
  • They help overcome the isolation of faculty members from one another and from their students.
  • They encourage faculty members to relate to one another both as specialists and as educators. (In effect this encourages the development of new faculty roles.)
  • They encourage continuity and integration in the curriculum.
  • They help build a sense of group identity, cohesion, and “specialness.”

Source: Involvement in Learning, 1984.


Some Purposes of Learning Communities Assessment:

  • Program description
    • Describing the program to others
  • Program monitoring
    • Monitoring the program over time
  • Program impact
    • Assessing program impact
  • Program improvement
    • Evaluating program for improvement
  • Program validation
    • Building support through assessment
  • Collaboration and Multiple Methods
    • Building partnerships through assessment
    • Understanding learning communities through multiple lenses
  • Quantitative Methods
    • Comparative descriptive data
    • Comparative longitudinal tracking
    • Comparative survey data
  • Qualitative Methods
    • Interviews
    • Focus groups
    • Diaries, journals, etc.
    • Portfolios
are learning communities effective
Are Learning Communities Effective?
  • Student outcomes
    • Student retention, achievement
    • Student involvement, motivation
    • Time to degree, degree completion
    • Intellectual development
  • Faculty outcomes
    • Faculty development in terms of expanded repertoire of teaching approaches, revised course content, and new scholarly interests.
    • Faculty mentoring
    • Faculty engagement with beginning students, with general education offerings.
  • Institutional outcomes
    • Learning communities as “skunk works,” i.e., R&D sites for curriculum development, and the strengthening of teaching and learning
final assessment
Final Assessment

On a piece of

paper, list 5-7 items/issues that will be essential to the success of learning communities on your campus. Include one approach for assessing your learning community initiative.

Focused Listing is a classroom assessment technique that can be found in Angelo and Cross (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. Jossey-Bass.

National Learning Communities Project

National Learning Commons Website


Shapiro, N. S., and J. H. Levine. 1999. Creating

Learning Communities: A Practical Guide to Winning Support, Organizing for Change, and Implementing Programs. Jossey-Bass.

Smith, B. L. 2001. "The Challenge of Learning Communities as a Growing National Movement." Peer Review. Association of American Colleges & Universities. 3/4, (4/1) Summer/Fall: 4-8.

Laufgraben, J. L. and Shapiro N. S. 2004. Sustaining and Improving Learning Communities. Jossey-Bass.

Smith, B. L., J. MacGregor, R. Matthews, and F. Gabelnick. 2004. Learning Communities: Reforming Undergraduate Education. Jossey-Bass.

final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Slides and Recording
    • We will send you a link to view the recording by the end of the day on Friday
  • Evaluation
  • Exit
  • Thank You