In 6th grade (the early 1970s) I was in a linked, team-taught social studies/language arts classroom, where two instructors co-taught and created interdisciplinary assignments, connecting the writing skills instruction, the introduction to literary analysis and history. The class was large (over 50 students) but we often broke into small groups for group work, and smaller class discussions.
That was my first exposure to Learning Communities.
I had to wait another 20 years for my next LC experience when I was adjuncting at a variety of colleges in the Big City: I taught several paired courses, where I taught my own section of writing, the other instructor taught his or her own section of a content area, and the same group of students took both courses. The best partnerships were when the other instructor and I worked to create shared or linked assignments on a regular basis, but that, naturally, didn’t always happen.
Targeting the cohort group of students (say, at risk students, developmental students, honors students, first year students) is another model that I’ve participated in, and that seems to me to be very effective, whether or not the students know they have been targeted. The students bond and truly wish to help each other succeed. (Of course, this model can also be disastrous for the students and the professors if there is dissension within the cohort group.)
There are other models that I haven’t yet been exposed to: the First Year Experience, where all students entering a college take a significant portion of their credits in the same classes (maybe a large lecture once a week, followed by small group discussion another day), and the classes may be linked by a specific theme. Such a first year experience would also integrate the necessary services (financial aid advising, academic advising, study skills, etc) that often help with student success.
So, blogging world, since I am now working with a Learning Communities task force this year, I’d love to hear more about your experiences with LC’s: best practices, warnings, etc. Since LC’s have been around basically forever, at least in some form, I’ve been catching up on all that has been written about the subject, including “A New Era in Learning-Community Work: Why the Pedagogy of Intentional Integration Matters” by Emily Lardner and Gillies Malnarich, but the more information I have, the easier my immersion into what may prove to be an exciting project for me, and a great opportunity for our students.