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LC Foundations

In the push to improve student retention, it is easy to overlook what research tells us: students persist in their studies if the learning they experience is meaningful, deeply engaging, and relevant to their lives.
‒ A New Era in Learning Community Work

How can we best organize and teach for high-quality learning for all students? A New Era in Learning Community Work: Why the Pedagogy of Intentional Integration Matters addresses this question in the contemporary context of LC work. It's a question with a long lineage.

Washington Center newsletters, dating back to 1985, describe wonderfully inventive learning communities focused on the quality of students' learning experiences. Similar to current practice, the degree of curricular integration and collaboration varied among faculty, counselors, student affairs professionals, librarians, and peer mentors. In these early years, a conversation between faculty keen to teach together was the typical starting point for planning learning communities.

Today, LC programs are closely aligned with institutions' efforts to turn access to higher education into improved graduation rates.

LCs as an Intervention Strategy for Student Success

Situating learning communities in the thick of an educational institution’s aims and concerns represents a coming-of-age for an emerging field. The expression "new era learning communities" refers to a new stage in learning community work—where curricular reform is cast more broadly as educational reform.

The shifts include the following key moves:

  • From learning community offerings based on faculty interest to learning communities situated where student need is greatest and at critical transition points (high school and pre-college to college, transfer from two- to-four year schools, entry into specialized studies)
  • From learning community models to learning communities as an intervention strategy for student success where attention is paid to subsets of students whose completion rates lag behind their peers
  • From one or two types of learning communities to multiple interventions with a common purpose informed by explicit learning community program mission and goals, articulated in relation to an institution's strategic plan

New era learning communities move forward the best of our collective efforts. The throughline—the constant—is the commitment to quality education for all students, and an explicit institutional acknowledgement that curriculum planning time for faculty and other teaching team members is foundational to learning communities done well.