Finding Common Ground In Interdisciplinary Learning Communities
Systems, Society, Sustainability & the Geosciences Workshop July 24th – 26th, 2012 Carleton College MN DevelopingLearning Communities& Fostering Interdisciplinary Learning at Skagit Valley College Ben Fackler-Adams, Ph.D. Instructor of Interdisciplinary Science Co-Chair – SVC Sustainability Standing Committee
Outline• What is a Learning Community?• SVC General Education Learning Values – Why we do learning communities?• What shape do learning communities take at SVC? – How do we foster interdiscipinary learning?• Mechanisms for developing learning communities• How effective are learning communities?• Examples of learning communities integrating sustainability• Conclusions, Summary & Acknowledgements
What is a Learning Community?• A learning community refers to linked classes that enroll a common cohort of students for a given term and engage them in exploration of an interdisciplinary theme or themes.• Their goal is to foster more explicit intellectual connections among students, between students and their faculty, and between disciplines.• Skagit Valley College requires all transfer students to take two learning communities integrating two or more courses from different disciplines that explore a theme from different disciplinary perspectives and then engages them in applying their learning in new ways.
What shape do Learning Communities take at SVC?• Type I: Fully coordinated curriculum: A Learning Community that is fully-coordinated: – enrolls a single cohort of students into two or more integrated courses and is team-taught. – is organized around a theme or area of inquiry and has a single integrated syllabus. – has at least three integrated assignments that are assessed by both instructors and that are designed to support the development of integrative thinking and skills throughout the course.
What shape do Learning Communities take at SVC?• Type II: Linked curriculum: A Learning Community that is linked: – enrolls a single cohort of students into two courses that are related thematically or in terms of content but that are not team-taught. – may have separate syllabi. – the instructors collaborate to provide at least one major integrative assignment that is evaluated by both instructors.
What shape do Learning Communities take at SVC?• Type III: Federated curriculum: A Learning Community that is federated: – co-enrolls a single cohort of students into a “Core” course and one of several “Federated” courses from related disciplines. – provides a focused, thematic exploration in the “Core” course of a theme or area of inquiry related to the Federated courses. – Instructors collaborate to define the relationships to be explored in the curriculum. Assignments in the Core course provide at least several opportunities for students to integrate concepts.
Mechanisms for developing learning communities• There are three main mechanisms for identifying pedagogically promising themes andrich areas of inquiry for Learning Communities: – Informal discussions (e.g. carpools, lunch room, friends) – Workshops & Retreats (SVC sponsors these for planning LC’s) – On the basis of need (e.g. learning communities between developmental classes are designed for specific cohorts of at risk students – ESL students, 1st generation at college students, etc.)
Are Learning Communities effective? Community College Survey of Student Engagement * * Have Taken N = 174; Have not taken, nor plan to N = 232
Learning Community Example I• Pathways To Sustainability – A 10-Credit Fully-Collaborative Integration of CHEM100 - Chemistry Concepts & SOCIAL SCIENCE 101 - Global Issues – A cohort of 54 students & two instructors meet 10 hours a week – Explores the scientific, social, economic and political aspects of problems associated with- & solutions to our cultures reliance on energy and food (e.g. air pollution, global climate change, ecosystem degradation, nuclear waste) at local, regional, and global scales. – The students engage in major group projects analyzing current and emerging sustainable practices in: • Transportation (written report & summary table entry) • Electricity generation & distribution (digital slide presentation) • Food (digital poster & poster session)
Learning Community Example I• Earth Exposition – A Linked Learning Community between GEOL110 – Environmental Geology & ENGL 101 & 103 – English Composition – A cohort of up to 27 students meet separately with visits from the other instructor at specific times of high need. – Strives to place geologic hazards and Earth resources in the context of human choices that are or are not sustainable from risk, resource use, and Earth System perspectives. Approximately a third of the class explores the relationships among energy resources, mineral resources, waste management, and global climate change. Activities include: • reading & analyzing Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “Field Notes From A Catastrophe”, • writing a term paper on human response to climate change, • developing a group presentation (e.g. poster, slide show or web site) that synthesizes the findings of all group member’s essays.
Summary & Conclusions• Learning communities provide an excellent means of fostering interdisciplinary learning.• Research shows that learning communities measurably improve student engagement (w/curriculum & campus community), critical thinking and depth of analysis.• Learning communities of all types are a key means of making the strongly interdsciplinary nature of sustainability accessible. Acknowledgements• Dr. Maureen Petit, SVC Office of Institutional Research.• Jennifer Hanley and the General Education Implementation Committee• Community College Survey of Student Satisfaction, CCSSE