Learning communities, as defined by Smith, MacGregor, Matthews, and Gabelnick (2004) refer to a variety of curricular approaches that intentionally link or cluster two or more courses, often around an interdisciplinary public issue or problem, and enroll a common cohort of students. They represent an intentional restructuring of students' time, credit, and learning experiences to build community, enhance learning, and foster connections among students and their teachers,and among disciplines. At their best, learning communities practice pedagogies of active engagement and reflection. (Learning communities: Reforming undergraduate education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p.20)
Learning communities involve collaboration, not only across academic departments, but across other institutional resources that serve student needs. Departments such as academic affairs, student development, and the library offer services and skills that contribute to the mission of learning communities and to students’ experience of higher education.
Kingsborough Community College currently supports three learning community programs: Opening Doors, Intensive ESL, and Advanced Learning Communities.
Opening Doors (begun 2003) and Intensive ESL (begun 1995) Learning Communities serve incoming students. The one course common to these learning communities is our Freshman Seminar (SD 10). Students’ learning and their transition to college are promoted through the collaboration of faculty, case managers, who serve as instructors for the Freshman Seminar and Career Exploration (SD 11), and library faculty, who offer support in the creation of joint research assignments and for information literacy. Most freshman student cohorts are additionally supported by tutors who attend classes and facilitate student work in the Reading and Writing Center.
Students in freshman learning communities at Kingsborough have demonstrated successful outcomes, and Kingsborough is committed to expanding and strengthening our learning community programs. This commitment is reflected in Kingsborough’s plan to increase the number of learning communities to accommodate 80% of incoming freshmen by the year 2010.
In Spring 2007, Kingsborough piloted the Career Focused Learning Communities Program, designed to provide an integrative learning experience for students beyond the first semester who are majoring in Accounting, Business Administration, Health Careers, and Health and Human Services Programs, including Mental Health and Human Services and Early Childhood Education/Child Care. Assessment of student outcomes in this program has been taking place since Fall 2007.