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Why Learning Communities Work: A DEEPer Look at Effective Educational Practice George D. Kuh Center for Postsecondary Research Indiana University Bloomington November 16, 2004. Student Engagement Quiz. True or False?

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Why Learning Communities Work:

A DEEPer Look at Effective Educational Practice

George D. Kuh

Center for Postsecondary Research

Indiana University Bloomington

November 16, 2004

student engagement quiz
Student Engagement Quiz

True or False?

More first-year students at research universities participate in learning communities than their peers at liberal arts colleges.

True(15% vs. 9%)

student engagement quiz1
Student Engagement Quiz

True or False?

More students at research universities do community service as part of a class than students attending liberal arts colleges.

False(47% vs. 37%)


We all want the same thing—an undergraduate experience that results in high levels of learning and personal development for all students.

  • Effective Educational Practice
  • NSSE Framework and Status
  • What We’ve Learned
  • Implications
points to ponder
Points to Ponder
  • What are we trying to accomplish with living-learning environments?
  • What makes for an educationally effective living-learning environment?
  • What would be persuasive evidence that we are accomplishing our intended purposes?
  • What would be useful data for improving our programs?
what matters to student success
What Matters to Student Success

Lessons from the research

lessons from the research
Lessons from the Research
  • What matters most to desired outcomes is what students do, not who they are
  • A key factor for student learning is the quality of effort students devote to educationally purposeful activities
what really matters in college student engagement
What Really Matters in College: Student Engagement

“The research is unequivocal: students who are actively involved in both academic and out-of-class activities gain more from the college experience than those who are not so involved.”

Ernest T. Pascarella & Patrick T. Terenzini, How College Affects Students

lessons from the research1
Lessons from the Research
  • What matters most is what students do, not who they are
  • A key factor is the quality of effort students expend
  • Educationally effective institutions channel student energy toward the right activities
principles for good practice in undergraduate education chickering gamson 1987
Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education(Chickering & Gamson, 1987)
  • Student-faculty contact
  • Active learning
  • Prompt feedback
  • High expectations
  • Respect for diverse learning styles
  • Cooperation among students
  • Time on task
student engagement quiz2
Student Engagement Quiz

What percent of full-time students study two hours or more for every hour in class?

(a) 14% (b) 24% (c) 31% (d) 39% (e) 49%


two components of student engagement
Two Components of Student Engagement
  • What students do –Time and energy devoted to educationally purposeful activities
  • What institutions do – Effective educational practices to induce students to do the right things
worth pondering
Worth Pondering
  • We value what we measure
  • Therefore, we should carefully decide what to measure and make certain it comports with our institutional mission, values, and desired outcomes.
types of measures
Types of Measures
  • Outcomes measures
    • Evidence of what students have learned or can do
  • Process Measures
    • Evidence of effective educational activity by students and institutions
evidence of student engagement
Evidence of Student Engagement

To what extent do students engage in effective educational practices?

National Survey of Student Engagement(pronounced “nessie”)Community College Survey of Student Engagement(pronounced “sessie”)

College student surveys that assess the extent to which students engage in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and development


NSSE Project Scope

  • 620,000 students from 850+ different schools
  • 68% of 4-yr undergraduate FTE
  • 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada
  • 70+ consortia
the college student report
The College Student Report

Student Behaviors

Institutional Actions &


Student Learning & Development

Reactions to College

Student Background



In your experience at your institution during the current school year, about how often have you done each of the following?


effective educational practices
Effective Educational Practices

Level of

Academic Challenge

Active &

Collaborative Learning


Faculty Interaction





Educational Experiences

gpa student faculty interaction regression random intercepts and slopes model
GPA & Student-Faculty InteractionRegression: Random Intercepts and Slopes Model


Interaction with Faculty

student engagement quiz3
Student Engagement Quiz

What percent of first-year students never discuss ideas outside of class with a faculty member?

(a) 14% (b) 19% (c) 30% (d) 44% (e) 55%



Prompt Feedback

Upper Division

Lower Division

FACULTY gave prompt feedback often or very often

92% | 92%

1st yr. Students


STUDENTS received prompt feedback often or very often

52% / 64%

Does institutional size matter to engagement?

Yes, size matters.

Smaller is generally better.

worth pondering1
Worth Pondering
  • How do we reach our least engaged students?
who s more engaged
Who’s more engaged?
  • Women
  • Fraternity & sorority members
  • Full-time students
  • Students who live on campus
  • Students with diversity experiences
  • Learning community students
who is likely to participate in lcs
Who is likely to participate in LCs?
  • Both classes: Non-transfer, minority, Greek, fulltime students, and pre-professional and 2+ majors
  • 1st year: low parent education, living on campus
  • Senior: women
benefits of learning communities
Benefits of Learning Communities
  • Academic Performance
    • SAT/ACT
    • Grades without controls
    • Grades with pre-college controls
benefits of learning communities1
Benefits of Learning Communities
  • Engagement
  • Quality of Campus Environment
  • Learning Outcomes
  • First-year vs. Senior
What major public research university ranks in the top 10 among its peers in terms of external grants and contracts but also did six major studies of the quality of the undergraduate experience of its students since 1986?

University of Michigan

project deep
Project DEEP

To discover, document and describe what high performing institutions do and how they achieved this level of effectiveness.

deep selection criteria
DEEP Selection Criteria
  • Controlling for student and institutional characteristics (i.e., selectivity, diversity, institutional type), DEEP schools have:
  • Higher-than-predicted graduation rates
  • Higher-than-predicted NSSE scores
  • Region and institutional
  • type, special mission
deep guiding questions
DEEP Guiding Questions:
  • What do high-performing colleges and universities do to promote student success?
  • What campus features -- policies, programs, and practices --contribute to high levels of engagement and better than predicted graduation rates?
project deep1
Project DEEP*

Liberal Arts

California State, Monterey Bay

Macalester College

Sweet Briar College

The Evergreen State College

University of the South

Ursinus College

Wabash College

Wheaton College (MA)

Wofford College

Baccalaureate General

Alverno College

University of Maine at Farmington

Winston-Salem State University

Doctoral Extensives

University of Kansas

University of Michigan

Doctoral Intensives

George Mason University

Miami University (Ohio)

University of Texas El Paso

Master’s Granting

Fayetteville State University

Gonzaga University

Longwood University

  • * Selection criteria: Higher-than-predicted graduation rates; Higher-than-predicted student engagement scores
research approach
Research Approach
  • Case study method
    • Team of 24 researchers review institutional documents and conduct multiple-day site visits
    • Observe individuals, classes, group meetings, activities, events
    • Discover and describe effective practices and programs, campus culture
  • Roundtables conducted by AAHE to explore uses of NSSE data for improvement of student learning
six shared conditions
Six Shared Conditions
  • “Living” Mission and “Lived” Educational Philosophy
  • Unshakeable Focus on Student Learning
  • Environments Adapted for Educational Advantage
  • Clearly Marked Pathways to Student Success
  • Improvement-Oriented Ethos
  • Shared Responsibility for Educational Quality

Hay muchas maneras de

matar pulgas

There are many ways to kill fleas

worth noting
Worth Noting
  • Many roads to an engaging institution
    • No one best model
    • Different combinations of complementary, interactive, synergistic conditions
    • Anything worth doing is worth doing well at scale

Unshakeable Focus on Student Learning

  • Student learning and personal development are high priorities.
  • Bent toward engaging pedagogies
  • “Cool passion” for talent development (students, faculty, staff)
  • Making time for students
  • Recruit and reward faculty and staff committed to pedagogical experimentation

Unshakeable Focus on Student Learning

  • Accommodate students’ preferred learning styles
  • Faculty and administrators challenge students with high standards
  • “Work with the students we have,” in contrast to focusing only on the best and the brightest
learning intensive practices
Learning Intensive Practices

University of Texas at El Paso uses learning communities and course-based service learning and volunteerism to actively engage its mostly commuter, first-generation students.

learning intensive practices1
Learning-intensive practices
  • CSUMB and George Mason require every student to take from 1-3 writing-intensive courses. They along with most DEEP schools have strong writing centers to emphasize and support the importance of good writing.
ample applied learning opportunities
Ample applied learning opportunities
  • University of Maine at Farmington’s Student Work Initiative employs students in meaningful work in student services, laboratories, and field-research. Such experiences provide opportunities to apply what they are learning to practical, real-life situations.

Clearly Marked Pathways to Student Success

  • Make plain to students the resources and services available to help them succeed.
  • Some guideposts tied directly to the academic program; others related to student and campus culture.
  • Institutional publications accurately describe what students experience.

Clearly Marked Pathways to Student Success

  • Efforts tailored to student needs.
  • Mutually reinforcing student expectations and behavior, institutional expectations, and institutional reward systems.
  • Redundant early warning systems and safety nets
  • High quality living environments
  • Sweet Briar – “intentionally residential”
  • Ursinus – Common Intellectual Experience and “frosh clustering”
  • Wofford – preceptors
  • Michigan – 11 LLCs, WISE, MCSP
  • Fayetteville State – “Suite Talks”
  • Sewanee – no cable tv
  • Macalester – “it’s what we don’t have
intentional acculturation
Intentional acculturation
  • Miami (Ohio) created the First Year Experience (FYE) Committee to explore ways to enhance the holistic FYE. Means to achieve their goals include (1) Miami Plan Foundation courses taught by full-time faculty; (2) optional first-year seminars; (3) community living options that emphasize leadership and service; and (4) cultural, intellectual, and arts events.
“You confront so many different people and so many different views… It really enhances the learning environment because you don’t just learn in the classroom…

California State University Monterey Bay student


Questions &


for more information
For More Information

NSSE website: