Iowa State University


Inside Iowa State
April 16, 1999

Improving learning communities is aim of May workshop

by Anne Dolan

Faculty and staff involved in 40-plus student learning communities will assemble for 2 1/2 days next month to look at how they can improve student learning. The learning communities institute, May 12-14, will be hosted by Iowa State's Learning Communities Advisory Committee, appointed last fall by President Martin Jischke.

Since 1995 at Iowa State, students have been clustered in teams based on a variety of interests academic, cultural, career and residential-based. They register for the same class sections, study together and find other strategies for learning together.

The focus of the May workshop will be to improve the learning community program by connecting courses across the curricula and connecting out-of-classroom experiences to student learning, said Corly Brooke, human development and family studies. "It's a more holistic approach to student learning, involving social, living and learning experiences," she said.

Brooke, who also directs the Center for Teaching Excellence, co-chairs the advisory committee with Doug Gruenewald, assistant director of residence for academic services.

"We are allowing for a lot of experiments in learning communities at Iowa State, to meet the diverse needs of students and what interests them," Brooke said. "This wonderful variety also appeals to faculty and staff, because they can be more creative in what they develop."

The institute primarily is intended for faculty and staff already involved in an existing or proposed learning community at ISU. However, Brooke said individuals who aren't involved in a team but would like to be, are welcome and will be assigned to a team. Informational sessions will be scheduled in the fall for those who want to learn more about learning communities before they join one, she said.

The first day of the institute will focus on different aspects of learning (such as problem solving, critical thinking or collaboration) and how to enhance student learning. It will include an overview of learning communities at Iowa State. Day Two will provide learning community teams with workshop time to develop the outcomes they desire for their learning communities, as well as activities that could produce the desired outcomes. Teams also will spend time developing tools to assess whether the outcomes are being achieved.

On the last day, teams will develop action plans for implementing what they have developed during the institute.

Ted Marchese, vice president of the American Association of Higher Education, Washington, D.C., will give the keynote address at 9 a.m. Wednesday in 179 Scheman. His talk, "Powerful Partnerships: Shared Responsibility for Learning," is open to the public. Jischke will speak to institute participants during a closing luncheon Friday.

Preregistration is requested. All faculty and staff will receive an institute mailer the week of April 19. April 26 is the registration deadline.

More information on learning communities at Iowa State is available at a new Web site, www.iastate.edu/~learncommunity/.

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