Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Model for Establishing Learning Communities at a HBCU in Graduate Classes

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

A Model for Establishing Learning Communities at a HBCU in Graduate Classes

Article excerpt

Because of the positive effects of learning communities with undergraduates, these researchers proposed the Collaborative Learning Initiatives that Motivate Bi-cultural experiences model (CLIMB) to implement learning communities within graduate counseling and educational administration courses. This article examines the concept of learning communities and its applicability to counseling and educational leadership courses at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) using CLIMB.

In an age where there are continuous innovations in instructional techniques and technology, colleges and universities have been hard press to pursue creative ways of increasing student involvement and motivation, enhancing academic achievement, and aiding in student retention . No longer are the traditional approaches to teaching adequate enough to engage me already technological astute student, and there are internal pressures to shift the paradigm of teaching into an arena that purports more flexible approaches to college instruction. Furthermore, throughout the educational system there is a desire to engage students in higher levels of critical thinking using multiple academic disciplines. The idea of learning communities was first suggested by Tinto and Russo (1994) when they introduced, "Coordinated Studies Programs." Tinto furthered his study in this area by developing a project on "Learning Communities" in 1998, and K. Patricia Cross (1998) also contributed by writing "Why Learning Communities? Why Now?" She explained in her book on adult learners that society was vastly changing into a different world that impacts careers, home life, education, technology, health and fitness. In order to pursue this reality, one has to acquire the education to be able to compete with these innovative changes. Many universities are also seeking ways to gage the transition of students seeking advance education from undergraduate status to graduate status in an effort to increase enrollment and prepare students for graduate courses in a non-threatening manner. Instituting learning communities may increase awareness and open doors for students and faculty on many intricate levels.

The significant quality of a learning community is the culture of learning which everyone is involved in a shared effort of understanding. According to Bielaczyc and Collins (1999), there are four characteristics that must exist in such a culture: (a) diversity of expertise among its members who are valued for their contributions, (b) a shared objective that continually advances collective knowledge and skills, (c) an emphasis on learning how to learn, and (d) mechanisms for sharing what is learned. The term "learning communities" joins two important principles - learning and community (Schoem, 2002). It suggests that course content, teaching, and learning are "inherently intertwined, and it explicitly puts forward the long-standing, though sometimes overlooked, notion of a community of scholars - both faculty and students - coming together for deeper learning" (Schoem, 2002, p. 3). They are described as intentional environments in that every program, activity and interaction within the community is intended to further the primary learning goals specified in the program (Smith, MacGregor, Matthews, & Gabelnick, 2004).

These learning communities can take many forms, from linked courses to organized and sequenced cohorts of learners. Although the trend is fairly new to many, learning communities are proving to be a valuable method of instruction leading to increased learning for both students and faculty and they fit within our changing philosophy of knowledge that is infiltrating today's information age (Porter, 2006). They are attracting the attention of faculty members in a wide array of disciplines because innovative and flexible approaches to college instruction are provided and are effective. Faculty members from the different disciplines who participate in learning communities usually meet, plan and coordinate syllabi and spend time in each other's classes for, after all, they are also engaging in the process of learning. …

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