What used to be an innovative trend is now a “credible and proven curricular model” (Laufgraben, J. L., & Shapiro, N. S., 2004, p. xiii). The term “learning communities” (LC) is an instructional strategy where people work together toward a common goal—students working with students, faculty working with faculty within the same discipline or from different disciplines, or students working with faculty. Although each learning community may take on a slightly different focus, here is one way they can be defined:
Learning communities can be defined as a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in a learning endeavor toward a common goal during a prescribed period of time. The typical time period for a successful learning community in an academic setting is one semester.
...a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in a learning endeavor toward a common goal...
A number of characteristics, components, and features have been identified which make up a learning community (Burden, 2003; Cox, M. D., 2007; Iowa State University, 2006; Wilson & Ryder, n.d.; Wojcicki, E. 2002). A compilation of these sources is presented in the following list.
Learning communities impart trust and mutual respect.
Learning communities help to create a social network of peers.
Leigh Smith, MacGregor, Matthews and Gabelnick (2004) suggest the following steps to initiate and sustain learning communities.
Learning communities create interdisciplinary learning environments which assist students in becoming partners in their own learning. Learning communities encourage students to take an active role in their learning through open communication, creative thinking, negotiation, and mutual respect of each member of the community.
Burden, P. R. (2003). Classroom management: Creating a successful learning community. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cox. M. D. (2007). Website for developing faculty and professional learning communities (FLCs) to transform campus culture for learning. Retrieved from http://www.units.muohio.edu/flc
Iowa State University (2006). Learning Communities. http://www.lc.iastate.edu/whatis.html
Laufgraben, J. L., & Shapiro, N. S. (2004). Sustaining & improving learning communities. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Leigh Smith, B., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R. S., & Gabelnick, F. (2004). Learning communities: Reforming undergraduate education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wilson, B., & Ryder, M. (n.d.). Dynamic learning communities: An alternative to designed instructional systems. http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/dlc.html
Wojcicki, E. (2002). Characteristics of an effective classroom culture. http://gallery.carnegiefoundation.org/collections/castl_k12/ewojcicki2/outcomes/characteristics_culture.htm
Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education (n.d.). Learning Communities. http://www.evergreen.edu/washcenter/lcFaq.htm
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Learning communities. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide