Regional Networks Connect Learning Community Practitioners
March-April 2010

In challenging financial times, regional consortiums offer opportunities for professional development that are less expensive and closer to home. Currently, three learning communities consortiums are helping educators and administrators make connections and share good practices.

The California Learning Communities Consortium (CLCC), now in its third year, is hosting its third annual retreat—“Moving from Themed Based to Interdisciplinary Learning Communities”—in Long Beach, CA on April 23 & 24. The CLCC includes 39 two-year and four-year institutions from across the state of California. To learn more about the CLCC and register for the retreat, visit the CLCC website.

In November 2009, a group of Washington State institutions initiated the rebirth of the Washington state network, now named the Washington Learning Communities Consortium (WLCC). To learn more about the WLCC and join as an individual or institution (at no cost), visit the WLCC website.

In the heart of the Midwest the Consortium for Illinois Learning Communities, formed in 2000, is hosting its 2010 Learning Communities Best Practices Symposium on April 30th at Triton College in River Grove, IL. For more information, visit the CILC website.

The Washington Center can assist groups of institutions in starting up statewide or regional consortiums. Contact the Washington Center if you are interested in starting a consortium in your area.

New Online Survey for Learning Community Programs Now Available
January-February 2010

Do you want to know more about how your students evaluate their learning in your learning community program? A new survey—developed by the Washington Center and field tested this fall in partnership with Skagit Valley College’s Office of Institutional Research and its director, Maureen Pettitt—can help answer your questions about the substantive learning that occurs in learning communities. The survey covers dimensions that may not receive the same focus in surveys that are not tailored for learning communities, such as intentional integration of concepts and skills from different classes or disciplines.

To sign up to participate in the Winter 2010 survey and to view a report of the findings of the Fall 2009 field test, visit the Washington Center website.

Kudos to the twelve ground-breaking institutions that field tested the survey this fall: Cerritos College (CA), Clark College (WA), Duquesne University (PA), Holyoke Community College (MA), Inver Hills Community College (MN), Kingsborough Community College (NY), Lehigh Carbon Community College (PA), Skagit Valley College (WA), Triton College (IL),Westminster College (UT), and Zane State College (OH).

When Faculty Assess Integrative Learning: Faculty Inquiry to Improve Learning Community Practice
November-December 2009

by Emily Lardner and Gillies Malnarich

This article, published in Change magazine's September-October issue, details what faculty from 20 institutions learned about assessing student work and integrative learning during the National Project on Assessing Learning in Learning Communities. Their in-depth discussions, with colleagues at their home campuses and in national meetings, led to some surprising insights, including an exploration of the differences and relationships between interdisciplinary and integrative understanding, and a deeper awareness of what is required to create successful integrative assignments.

Redefining College Readiness
October 2009

What do we mean when we say a student is ready to do college-level work? A report by David T. Conley, Redefining College Readiness (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2007), addresses this question, beginning with an operational definition of college-readiness. In Conley’s framework, a student is college-ready when he or she “is able to understand what is expected in a college course, can cope with the content knowledge that is presented, and can take away from the course the key intellectual lessons and dispositions the course was designed to convey and develop.” The report describes the range of components included in college-readiness, outlining key cognitive strategies, academic knowledge and skills, academic behaviors, and contextual skills and awareness.

The complete report can be downloaded free of charge from the Educational Policy Improvement Center website.

Reminder: The application deadline for the 2010 National Summer Institute on Learning Communities (June 27-July 1, 2010) is December 9, 2009. For more information and an application, go to the National Summer Institute website.


Promoting Partnerships for Student Success—Lessons from the SSPIRE Initiative
August-September 2009

Across the nation, policymakers and educators are concerned about strategies to improve instruction—particularly in developmental English and mathematics courses. The need for effective strategies is critical, since a growing number of students face major obstacles to success. New scholarship suggests that, to be most effective, support for developmental-level learners should not be limited to the classroom. The Student Support Partnership Integrating Resources and Education (SSPIRE) initiative, funded by the James Irvine Foundation and coordinated by MDRC, documents efforts on nine community colleges in CA to integrate student services and instruction.

Five of the nine campuses involved in SSPIRE infused student services into learning communities, and chapter two of this report describes the approaches taken, challenges faced, results and costs, and implications for other campuses. This groundbreaking work is well-worth reading, as campuses across the country continue to search for best practices for integrating student services and instruction. To read the entire report, click here.


Grossmont College, GCCD Receive Statewide 'Practices with Promise' Awards—Projects Promoting Student Success Lauded
May-June 2009

El Cajon, CA—A nonprofit group with a goal to increase college attendance in California has honored two local educational programs as among the best in the state.

Grossmont College's Project Success Learning Communities and the district's Cal-PASS Freshman Composition Alignment Project are among 15 "working solutions" chosen by the statewide Campaign for College Opportunity for its annual Practices with Promise award recognizing top-notch efforts to improve college access and success.

The two projects were selected from 102 submissions representing all levels of education—K-12, community colleges, and universities from the California State and University of California systems, as well as private institutions, including Stanford.

To read more, click here.

Visit the new California Learning Communities Consortium (CLCC) Website

The California Learning Communities Consortium (CLCC) is the collaborative project of California colleges committed to improving the quality of student education through collaborative learning. Visit their website for resources, articles, news, and events.


Research Findings from the National Project on Assessing Learning in Learning Communities
March-April 2009

What kind of learning do learning communities make possible? Articles in a special issue of the Journal of Learning Communities Research discuss findings from Washington Center's National Project on Assessing Learning in Learning Communities. This two-year participatory research project, initiated in September 2006, brought together teams from 22 two- and four-year institutions to examine student work using a collaborative assessment protocol, designed by Veronica Boix-Mansilla. The teams then revised their assignments using a heuristic developed by the Washington Center.

We are making available selected working papers from this project.

Insights from the National Project on Assessing Learning in Learning Communities

Productive Shifts: Faculty Growth Through Collaborative Assessment of Student Interdisciplinary Work

The complete issue can be ordered here.

Curriculum for the Bioregion Update:
Initiative Builds Learning Communities around Sustainability
October 2008

With global warming and energy among the most critical issues facing us, sustainability efforts are receiving attention at campuses across the nation. Washington Center's Curriculum for the Bioregion initiative is taking this focus one step further in Washington state--into the classroom. Sustainability offers unique opportunities for faculty to create theme-based curriculum and design integrative assignments.

The Curriculum for the Bioregion website includes a rich library of curricular resources and information about sustainability.

A New Era in Learning-Community Work:
Why the Pedagogy of Intentional Integration Matters
September 2008

by Emily Lardner and Gillies Malnarich

This Change magazine article describes a significant shift in emphasis in learning community practice over the past decade: from a focus on models and organizational structures to a focus on intentionally designed integrative learning for students. Campus applications for the National Summer Institute on Learning Communities in 2004 are compared with those from 2008, and three trends are noted: more campuses are using data to make decisions about instructional programs; more campuses are explicitly focusing on increasing student engagement; and more campuses are connecting their desire to implement learning community programs with their vision of the kind of learning experiences they want students to have.