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Learning Communities Journal, Volume 5 (2013)
Articles in this issue:
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Cox, M. D.
This issue of the Learning Communities Journal features two articles on student learning communities (SLCs) and four on faculty and professional learning communities (FLCs). The SLC results have important implications for FLCs. Learning communities, whether student or faculty, are made up of design and implementation components whose variations of use influence effectiveness and outcomes.
An Exploratory Study of Student Learning Community Effectiveness: Design and Implementation Components
Buch, K., Johnson, C. W., Fitzgerald, L., & Bonilla, D.
This exploratory study investigated the impact of a campus-wide student learning communities program on the academic success of first-year students. Results revealed a positive effect of learning community participation on first-year retention and grade point average over the three years studied. A model was developed and used to make subgroup comparisons across learning communities to identify possible design and implementation components that may be most important in driving program success. Results identified four of eight components that may enhance the effectiveness of learning communities. Implications of these findings for theory and practice, as well as recommendations for future research, are discussed.
The Online Student Learning Community: A Valuable Component of an Effective Reading Teacher Preparation Practicum Course?
James, R. D., Novy, L. A., & Heilbronner, N.
The authors report on an ongoing study about a cohort-based practicum course for graduate student classroom teachers in which virtual peer collaboration supports their instruction. The study grew organically out of a one-on-one literacy tutoring program set up to meet the needs of struggling English language learner (ELL) readers in grades 2-4. The authors examine what benefits, if any, the graduate students perceived in this face-to-face (F2F) tutoring program as part of their practicum experience when using an asynchronous blog to share experiences and strive toward following evidence-based practices in literacy and ELL pedagogy.
Fair, G., Sweet, C., Blythe, H., Combs, D., & Phillips, B.
Soon after Kentucky adopted the Common Core State Standards, the authors' university began a project to align college-level courses to these standards. While the teacher education faculty have always aligned their courses to specific standards, involving the Arts and Sciences faculty would require a professional development strategy. The authors proposed using professional learning communities for this work. Solving this curriculum alignment problem first required an understanding that the meaning of the term professional learning community (PLC) depends upon one's perspective. Specifically, the general higher education faculty have one view of what a PLC is, while teacher educators have another. A recent collaboration between these two distinct cohorts allowed the authors to understand each other's perspectives, to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and to synthesize a practical working model from the two versions in order to create a state-mandated seamless transition between secondary and higher education at their university.
Lisagor, T., Augustin, F., Lucero-Liu, A., & Efrat, R.
The authors, members of a faculty learning community (FLC) within the College of Health and Human Development at California State University, Northridge, surveyed faculty participants to assess the perceived impact of the FLC on faculty members' ability to strengthen faculty-student relationships and student success, particularly among Latino students. The participants identified improvements in mentoring, increased awareness of cultural issues related to Latino students, greater knowledge of available campus resources, and a stronger sense of faculty support. These findings suggest that faculty development programs like FLCs may equip faculty with knowledge and strategies to help close the college completion gap for Latinos.
A Journey Toward Mastery Teaching: STEM Faculty Engagement in a Year-Long Faculty Learning Community
Nadelson, L. S., Shadle, S. E., & Hettinger, J. K.
As part of an institutional focus on STEM student success, a group of STEM faculty participated in a year-long faculty learning community (FLC) to explore and adopt research-based best practice in their teaching. The authors assessed the effectiveness of the FLC in influencing faculty perceptions about teaching and increasing their use of best teaching practices. Their research design used pre- and post-analysis of participants' teaching logs, classroom observations, and a survey instrument that probed attitudes toward teaching and learning. Data analysis shows that the sustained support provided by the FLC increased faculty knowledge of best teaching practices and catalyzed faculty to try new pedagogical and assessment approaches. However, over the year of the FLC experience, only small shifts were observed in faculty perceptions and practice, as measured by a survey and a descriptive observation protocol, respectively. Results suggest the experience primarily supported modest faculty exploration of new strategies.
Modifying Courses for a New Economic Reality: A Statewide Solution Involving Faculty Learning Communities
This study analyzes the impact of a condensed 6-month faculty learning community (FLC) model on a variety of both FLC facilitators' and FLC participants' professional-development outcomes at 14 California State University (CSU) campuses during budget-tight times. The majority of FLC facilitators were faculty development center directors, who recruited 4-11 faculty from diverse disciplines to join an FLC that was focused on a facilitator-selected topic within the theme of Course Modifications for Our New Reality (referring to CSU system-wide mandatory two-day-per month faculty-furlough program instituted in the fall of that year). Predicting that FLCs were potentially useful vehicles for organizational change, members of the FLCs at each campus met on a regular basis to address current issues resulting from the CSU's substantial budget shortfall of $625 million--issues such as fewer class-meeting days, increased class size, and poor faculty morale. At the conclusion of the year's FLC work, the CSU's system-level faculty development unit surveyed both FLC facilitators and participants, and the outcomes reported here indicate that the FLC approach as designed was successful but could be improved. As a result, the CSU system has funded FLCs for a second year and has made the modifications as indicated by the survey.
Milton D. Cox, Miami University
Laurie Richlin, Western Michigan University School of Medicine & International Alliance of Teacher Scholars
Gregg W. Wentzell, Miami University
Andrea Beach, Western Michigan University
Todd Carter, Seward County Community College
Mary Lou Holly, Kent State University
Alan Kalish, The Ohio State University
Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, Berea College
Norman Vaughan, Mount Royal College (Canada)
|Reviewers for This Issue:|
Jeanne Ballantine, Wright State University
Judith Bordin, California State University - Chico
Langdon Clough, West Warwick, RI
Alice Flores, Cal State TEACH
Stanford Goto, Western Washington University
Jodi Holschuh, Texas State University
Norma Holter, Towson University
Beverley Knauper, University of Cincinnati Raymond Walters College
Joanne Munroe, Tacoma Community College
Lauren Scharff, United States Air Force Academy
Roben Torosyan, Bridgewater State University