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LEARNING COMMUNITIES: Creating Environments that Retain, Engage and Transform Learners

* Carol Hamilton, Faculty Emeritus, English* Jane Lister Reis, Communications Faculty* Cam Basden, teaching assistant and adult learner* Haley Gronbeck, teaching assistant and tutor* Chris McCrae, adult learner

North Seattle Community College Presenters:

Requirement of our AA degree (learning outcome:interdisciplinary thinking

Recently utilized as a retention strategy with developmental English and math integrated with a college course (Gates Foundation and Washington Center focus)

Integrated Studies Committee led by a faculty member

LEARNING COMMUNITIES: A 20+ Year History at Our College

Most of the research and assessment on learning communities reveal promising results: * A preponderance of studies indicate that learning communities strengthen student retention and academic achievement, and that both students and teachers in learning communities say that their learning community experience is positive.

* Both research and assessment studies point to numbers of noteworthy and effective learning community initiatives in programs for entering students, general education coursework, and in pre-college/developmental education.

2 Kathe Taylor et al. Learning Community Research and Assessment: What We Know Now, Executive Summary, 2003. Learning Communities: A Proven Container for Student Retention and Critical/Analytical Thinking2

Classroom as container

Beginnings: Sustaining Our Identity and Culture in a Multicultural Society An interdisciplinary 10-credit, 11-week evening course offered Fall 2010 combining Freshman English Composition, American Literature and Society (ENGL 265), Small Group Communication(CMST&230) and Intercultural Communication(HUM105)About Our Class:

Theme- based learning, essays (personal narrative and research-based), dialogic student seminars, mini-lectures, small group discussions, cultural interviews, and a final integrative projectAbout Our Class:

Our Educational Paths and How Learning Communities Changed our Learning and Our LivesIntroducing the Adult Learners & Teaching Assistants:

Haley, Cam, and Chris

Intersections between Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) and my experience as a T.A.Importance of narrative in the classroom to create a comfortable learning environmentMy experience at The Evergreen State College: community-based, seminar-style learning with narrative evaluations


Creating a space where stories come forwardReleasing your voice in the classroom: creating aspace forstudent and teacher connection.Using personal histories to challenge and deconstruct dangerous ideas.Developing community and intellectual intimacy by understanding ourselves, our history, and the stories around us.

Diverse Learners: Exploring Personal Narrative and Social Awareness

Cams NarrativeMy previous educational experiences: St. Marks School (East Coast Boarding School) & University of Florida and what was missing.Communication and its importance inside and outside of the classroom.My experience as both a student and T.A. in Coordinated Studies: its impact on my life both scholastically and privately.

A Community That CaresEstablish awareness with students on the 1st day of class --this is not a normal class --you will be talking about deep issues revolving around identity, belonging, and community.Create a sense of openness: student to student, teacher to student, and student to teacher all required for success and enjoyability.Invite stories: All class members have a story, one that shapes our identity and our relationships with one another.Discover empathy: it exists in all of us, but requires practice.Recognize the class as a living system: it requires nurturing and attention in order for optimal learning to take place.

A COMMUNITY OF RELEVANT ENGAGEMENT The final integrative group project pulls all of thecoursework together and gives it meaning.

Completing a project that addresses communitystimulates scholarship and connection by performing thefollowing functions:

Enhancing learner ability to work as a group member in the pursuit of a common goal that has an intrinsic value to the community. Practical application of skills learned in this classroom environment makes the learning relevant and gives it meaning.

A COMMUNITY OF RELEVANT ENGAGEMENT Utilizing the critical thinking skills developed by literary analysis and cultural interviews allows learners the ability to reflect on and evaluate group dynamics.

Giving creative space to learners who together pick a theme (related to literary and cultural themes explored throughout the quarter), develop tasks and timelines, form a group success plan, and develop norms forms a strong cohesive group fosters a safe learning environment empowering all learners to take leadership in the classroom.

A COMMUNITY OF RELEVANT ENGAGEMENT Developing connections with each other and to the college that extends beyond the classroom. They build networks and support groups that can be used in future.

Providing a quantifiable and visible service to the community which gives the school value to the public and gives learners a sense of ownership to the school and their work.

Questions for Haley, Cam and Chris?

Emergent, Co-Constructive & Based on Adult Learning Theory (Knowles)3

* Adults are practical, autonomous and self-directed. * Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. * Adults are goal-oriented and relevancy-oriented. * As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect.

About Our Class:

3Conner, M. L. "How Adults Learn." Ageless Learner, 1997-2007. http://agelesslearner.com/intros/adultlearning.html

Love the learner and the learning!

Course Website: http://facweb.northseattle.edu/jreis/beginnings2010/beginnings_index.htmClass Blog: http://beginnscc.blogspot.com/Key Handouts & Assignments: Whats in a Seminar Seminar Video Seminar: A Skill Everyone Can Learn" Seminar Preps (careful reading & critical thinking) Final Integrated Assignment Cultural Interviews Assignment Personal Narrative Assignment & EssaysAnnotated Bibliography



Thank you for this opportunity to share our learning experience with you!


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