ArticlePDF Available

Learning Better Together: The Impact of Learning Communities on Student Success

Figures

Content may be subject to copyright.
TINTO 1
Learning Better Together: The Impact of
Learning Communities on Student Success
Vincent Tinto
Syracuse University
Higher Education Monograph Serie s, 20 03-1, Higher Ed ucation Pro gram, Schoo l of Educatio n, Syracuse University.
Despite recent innovations, it remains the
case that most students experience
universities as isolated learners whose learning
is disconnected from that of others. They
continue to engage in solo performance and
demonstration in what remains a largely
show-and-tell learning environment. The
experience of learning in higher education is,
for most students, still very much a
"spectator sport" in which faculty talk
dominates and where there are few active
student participants. Just as importantly,
students typically take courses as detached,
individual units, one course separated from
another in both content and peer group, one
set of understandings unrelated in any
intentional fashion to what is learned in other
courses. Though there are majors, there is
little academic or social coherence to student
learning. It is little wonder then that students
seem so uninvolved in learning. Their learning
experiences are not very involving.
Fortunately, there is change. Partly in
response to a series of reports in the 1980's
by the National Institute of Education (1984),
the Association of American Colleges (1985),
and studies in the late 1980's and early 1990's
by scholars such as Astin (1987), Boyer
(1987), and Tinto (1987), a growing number
of institutions have begun to reform
educational practice and restructure
classrooms to more actively involve students
in learning. One such effort that is gaining
increased attention is that encompassed by
learning communities and the collaborative
pedagogy that underlies them. Unlike many
programs which exist at the periphery of the
academic experiences of students, learning
communities seek to restructure the very
classrooms in which students find themselves
and alter the way students experience both the
curriculum and learning within those
classrooms.i
Learning Communities in Higher
Education
Learning communities, in their most basic
form, begin with a kind of co-registration or
block scheduling that enables students to take
courses together, rather than apart. In some
cases, learning communities will link students
by tying two courses together, typically a
course in writing with a course in selected
literature or current social problems (Linked
Courses). In other cases, it may mean sharing
the entire first-semester curriculum so that
2 PROMOTING STUDENT SUCCESS IN COL LEGE
students in the learning community study the
same material throughout the semester. In
some large universities such as the University
of Oregon and the University of Washington,
the twenty-five to thirty students in a learning
community may attend lectures with 200-300
other students but stay together for a smaller
discussion section, often called the Freshman
Interest Group, led by a graduate student or
upperclassman. In still other cases, students
will take all their classes together either as
separate, but linked, classes (Cluster Learning
Communities) or as one large class that meets
four to six hours at a time several times a
week (Coordinated Studies) (See Figure I).
The courses in which students co-register
are not coincidental or random. They are
ty pically connected by an organizing theme
which gives meaning to their linkage. The
point of doing so is to engender a coherent
interdisciplinary or cross-subject learning that
is not easily attainable through enrollment in
unrelated, stand-alone courses. For example,
the Coordinated Studies Program at Seattle
Central Community College entitled “Body
and Mind” which links courses in human
biology, psychology, and sociology, asks
students to consider how the connected fields
of study pursue a singular piece of knowledge,
namely how and why humans behave as they
do.
As described by Gablenick and her
colleagues in their 1990 book Learning
Communities: Creating Connections among
Students, Faculty, and Disciplines, many
learning communities do more than co-register
students around a topic. They change the
manner in which students experience the
curriculum and the way they are taught.
Faculty have reorganized their syllabi and
their classrooms to promote shared,
collaborative learning experiences among
students across the linked classrooms. This
form of classroom organization requires
students to work together in some form of
collaborative groups and to become active,
indeed responsible, for the learning of both
group and classroom peers. In this way,
students are asked to share not only the
experience of the curriculum, but also of
learning within the curriculum.
Though the content may vary, nearly all the
learning communities have three things in
common. One is shared knowledge. By
requiring students to take courses together and
organizing those courses around a theme,
learning communities seek to construct a
shared, coherent curricular experience that is
not just an unconnected array of courses in,
say, composition, calculus, history, Spanish,
and geology. In doing so, they seek to
promote higher levels of cognitive complexity
that cannot easily be obtained through
participation in unrelated courses. The second
is shared knowing. Learning communities
enroll the same students in several classes so
they get to know each other quickly and fairly
intimately in a way that is part and parcel of
their academic experience. By asking students
to construct knowledge together, learning
communities seek to involve students both
socially and intellectually in ways that
promote cognitive development as well as an
appreciation for the many ways in which
one's own knowing is enhanced when other
voices are part of that learning experience. The
third is shared responsibility. Learning
communities ask students to become
responsible to each other in the process of
trying to know. They participate in
collaborative groups which require students to
be mutually dependent on one another so that
the learning of the group does not advance
TINTO 3
Figure I: Common Types of Learning Communities
4 PROMOTING STUDENT SUCCESS IN COL LEGE
without each member doing her or his part.
As a curricular structure, learning
communities can be applied to any content
and any group of students. Most often, they
are designed for the needs of beginning
students. In those instance, one of the linked
courses becomes a Freshman Seminar.
Increasingly, they are also being adapted to
the needs of undecided students and students
who require developmental academic
assistanceii. In these cases, one of the linked
courses may be a career exploration and/or
developmental advising course or, in the latter
case, a “learning to learn” or study skills
course. One or more courses may also be
developmental in character. In residential
campuses, some learning communities have
moved into the residence halls. These “living
learning communities” combine shared courses
with shared living. Students, typically those
beginning their first semester of college, enroll
in a number of linked courses and living
together in a reserved part of a residence hall.
More recently, a number of learning
communities have used community service as
a linking activity or theme for learning
communities. In some cases, at The Evergreen
State College, Portland State University, St.
Lawrence University, and in colleges in the
Maricopa Community College District they
have added service learning to one or more of
the linked courses. As an extension of
traditional models of community service and
experiential learning, service learning combines
intentional educational activities with service
experience to meet critical needs identified by
the communities being served. Unlike
voluntarism, service-learning is a pedagogical
strategy, an inductive approach to education,
grounded in the assumption that thoughtfully
organized experience is the foundation for
learning (Jacoby, 1996). When connected to
learning communities and the collaborative
pedagogy that underlies them, service learning
becomes a shared experience in which
students and faculty are able to engage in
time-intensive, interdisciplinary study of
complex social problems that may be used to
apply and test theory learned in the classroom
or to generate knowledge from experience. In
either case, service learning in a collaborative
setting seems to promote not only the
acquisition of course content, but also
enhanced intellectual development and a
shared sense of responsibility for the welfare
of others (Jacoby, 1994).
When applied to particular groups of
students, as described above, the “faculty” of
the learning community almost always
combine the work of both academic and
student affairs professionals. Indeed such
learning communities call for, indeed require,
the collaborative efforts of both parties. This
is the case because the staff of student affairs
are typically the only persons on campus
who possess the skills and knowledge needed
to teach some of the linked courses. Take the
case of learning communities for students
requiring developmental assistance. In Cluster
Learning Communities, for example, the
“faculty” of the learning community may
consist of a faculty person who teaches a
regular introductory course in Economics and
two members of a learning support center
who teach developmental writing and
mathematics.
To be effective, learning communities
require their “faculty”, that is the academic
and student affairs professionals who staff the
learning community, to collaborate on both
TINTO 5
the content and pedagogy of the linked
courses. They have to work together, as equal
partners, to ensure that the linked courses
provide a coherent shared learning experience.
One of the many benefits of such
collaboration, where all voices are heard, is
that the academic staff come to “discover” the
wealth of knowledge that student affairs
professionals bring to the discourse about
teaching and learning.iii Furthermore, in
leaving, at least momentarily, their respective
silos, both come to discover the many benefits
of looking at one’s work from fresh eyes.
Research on Learning Communities
Though there is growing interest in
learning communities, most programs are in
their infancy and evidence of their impact is
spott y at best. Our view of the efficacy of
learning communities is largely the result of
anecdotal evidence and periodic institutional
reports or assessments that are reported at
conferences and national meetings. That is
until recently. A recent study carried out by
this author under the auspices of the National
Center for Teaching, Learning, and
Assessment ( a research center funded by a
five year grant from the U.S. Office of
Education) explored the impact of learning
community programs upon the academic and
social behavior and persistence of new
students in three different institutional
settings, specifically the University of
Washington, LaGuardia Community College
in New York City, and Seattle Central
Community College.
Though intentionally limited in scope,
that research yielded a number of important
insights into the impacts of learning
communities on student learning and
persistence. First, students in learning
communities tended to form their own self-
supporting groups which extended beyond the
classroom. Learning community students
spent more time together out of class than did
students in traditional, unrelated stand-alone
classes and they did so in ways which
students saw as supportive. Indeed, some
students at the urban community colleges saw
those groups as critical to their ability to
continue in college. Second, learning
community students became more actively
involved in classroom learning, even after
class. They spent more time learning together
both inside and outside the class. In this way,
learning communities enabled students to
bridge the divide between academic classes
and student social conduct that frequently
characterizes student life. They tended to
learn and make friends at the same time. And
as students spent more time together learning,
they learned more. Third, participation in the
learning community seemed to enhance the
quality of student learning. By learning
together everyone’s understanding and
knowledge was, in the eyes of the
participants, enriched. As the same time,
students in the learning community programs
perceived themselves as having made
significantly greater intellectual gains over the
course of the semester than did similar
students in the comparison classes. Fourth, as
students learned more and saw themselves as
more engaged both academically and socially,
they persisted at a substantially higher rate
than did comparable students in the traditional
curriculum. At Seattle Central Community
College, for example, learning community
students continued at a rate approximately
twenty-five percentage points higher than did
students in the traditional curriculum.
Finally, student participants’ stories
highlighted powerful messages about the value
6 PROMOTING STUDENT SUCCESS IN COL LEGE
of collaborative learning settings in fostering
what could be called “the norms of
educational citizenship,” that is to say norms
which promote the notion that individual
educational welfare is tied inexorably to the
educational welfare and interests of other
members of the educational community.
Students in these programs reported an
increased sense of responsibility to
participate in the learning experience, and an
awareness of their responsibility for both
their learning and the learning of others.
Concluding Observation
Learning communities do not represent a
“magic bullet” to student learning. Like any
other pedagogy, there are limits to their
effectiveness. Some students do not like
learning with others and some faculty find
collaborating with other faculty and staff
difficult. Nevertheless, like other efforts to
enhance student involvement in learning such
as cooperative learning and classroom
assessment, there is ample evidence to
support the contention that their ap plication
enhances student learning and persistence and
enriches faculty professional lives (Cross,
1998). Little wonder then that so many
institutions have recently initiated learning
communities and a number of foundations
have established programs to support their
development.
_____________________________________
Vincent Tinto is chair of the Higher Education
Program at Syracuse University and
Distinguished University Professor. He can be
reached by phone at 315 443-4763 or by email
at vtinto@syr.edu
TINTO 7
Footnotes
1.Learning communities are not new. In
the United States, they date back to the early
work of the philosopher and educational
theorist Alexander Meiklejohn and to the
Experimental College at the University of
Wisconsin which he helped established in
1927 (Meiklejohn, 1932). However, like
Joseph Tussman's experiment at the
University of California at Berkeley (1969),
early learning communities were limited in
scope and in the students they served. The
current movement, led over the past twelve
years by the Washington Center at The
Evergreen State College, is different not only
because it involves a greater range of
institutions public and private, two and four-
year, but also because it is being adapted to
the learning needs of a broad range of
students.
2. A variant on this theme of providing
assistance through linked courses is
supplemental instruction (Blance, De Buhr &
Martin, 1983). In this model of academic
assistance, students participate in the regular
courses with the proviso that they also attend
supplemental instruction groups that meet,
with a peer tutor, outside of class for one or
more hours per week. Academic assistance is
provided in those groups, often in a
cooperative manner, and is timed to address
the changing demands of the course to which
the groups are attached. In this manner,
supplemental instruction represents a ty pe of
learning community which links a remedial
unit to a regular class. It is, to borrow the
language of those who work with learning
communities, a type of “linked course.
3. One of the ironies of this situation is
that the ty pical student affairs professional
knows more about student learning than does
the typical faculty member. Least we forget,
the faculty are the only members of the
teaching profession, from kindergarten
through college, who are not trained to teach
their own students. Neither the students they
wish they had nor the students they do have.
8 PROMOTING STUDENT SUCCESS IN COL LEGE
References
Association of American Colleges (1985).
Integrity in the curriculum: Report to the
academic community. Washington D.C.:
Association of American Colleges.
Astin, A. (1987). Achieving educational
excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Boyer, E. (1987). College: The undergraduate
experience in America. New York: Harper &
Row Publishers.
Cross, P (1998). Why learning communities,
why now? About Campus, July/August: 4-11.
Gablenick, F., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R.,
& Smith, B.L. (1990). Learning communities:
Creating connections among students, faculty,
and disciplines. New Directions for Teaching
and Learning, 41 (Spring). San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass Inc..
Jacoby, B. (1994). Bringing community
service into the curriculum. The Chronicle of
Higher Education. August , 32.
______. (1996). Service learning in higher
education: Concepts and practices. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Meiklejohn, A.The experimental college. New
York: Harper & Row, 1932.
National Institute of Education (1984).
Involvement in learning: Realizing the
potential of American higher education.
Washington D.C. U.S. Department of
Education.
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking
the causes and cures of student attrition .(2nd.
ed.).Chicago:The University of Chicago Press.
Tinto, V. (1995). Learning communities,
collaborative learning, and the pedagogy of
educational citizenship"AAHE Bulletin. 47 ,
11-13.
Tinto, V. (1997). Classrooms as communities:
Exploring the educational character of student
persistence.The Journal of Higher Education,
68, 599-623.
Tinto, V., Goodsell, A. & Russo, P. (1993).
Building community among new college
students.Liberal Education, 79, 16-21.
Tussman, J. Experiment at Berkeley. London:
Oxford University Press. 1969.
.
... LC structures have been found to promote retention, student success, and feelings of connection to the campus community. 3,10 The biology course has large enrollment (400-450 students) and is split into many lecture sections of 30-80 students. The bioengineering cohort has a different instructor each year, each utilizing varying levels of active learning. ...
... Creation of shared expectations was a useful activity that I plan to continue following the COVID-19 pandemic when teaching in-person. It emphasizes the third component of successful LCs described by Tinto, 10 shared responsibility, or the responsibility to each other in the learning process. Shared responsibility had not been made an explicit part of the LC until now. ...
... The two other components, shared knowledge and shared knowing, had previously been incorporated in the LC with students taking courses together along a theme and through social and academic interactions to promote learning together, respectively. 10 Student responses on shared expectations illuminated that building friendships was important to them as was ensuring a supportive collaborative environment. In addition, it was also beneficial to understand their expectations of me to be encouraging and approachable and establish a classroom environment that promotes learning and growth. ...
... Common features of learning communities are curricular coherence, peer cooperative learning activities, and more interaction of faculty members with one another and of faculty members with their students. There are five types of learning communities: linked courses, learning clusters, freshman interest groups, federated learning communities, and coordinated studies (Tinto, 2003). The IL approach fits with linked courses. ...
... Long before learning communities became popular in higher education (Tinto, 2003), the Schelske's UB summer bridge program pairing an IL course and a content course created what was essentially a linked-course learning community approach. A graduate student selected and trained by the Schelskes taught the UB IL course. ...
Article
Full-text available
In 1972, the Integrated Learning (IL) course was developed at the University of Minnesota to meet academic and cultural transition needs of their TRIO Upward Bound summer bridge program students as they prepared to enter college. The IL course was an early example of a linked course learning community. A historically-challenging college content course such as Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology or Law in Society was linked with an IL course. The IL course is essentially an academic support class customized to use the content of its companion class as a context for mastering learning strategies and orienting students to the rigor of the college learning environment. The history of the IL course provides lessons for creating, sustaining, and surviving daunting campus political and financial challenges that could face any new academic or student affairs program. The TRIO program leveraged its modest budget and personnel for the IL course approach which flourished and withstood changing economic and political forces that could have terminated the innovative approach to academic support. Lessons from this history of creation, conflict, and survival could be applied to other programs in a postsecondary setting.
... How to support novice teachers' expectancy for success through explicating their work challenges is important to their ability to persist in urban school settings. Once teachers' challenges are identified the mentoring provided can be targeted and career decidedness and retention is supported by long-term mentoring to help remove persistence barriers (Tinto, 2003, Campbell & Campbell 1997Gati et al, 1996;Kahle et al., 1993). ...
... Linking STEM content to social and civic issues has been shown to improve learning and engagement (Chamany et al., 2008;Sheardy, 2010;Sadler, 2011;Burns, 2017), particularly for students from groups underrepresented in STEM (Harackiewicz et al., 2016;Estrada et al., 2016). Finally, a greater level of engagement with campus life and the cultivation of academic (STEM) identity and self-efficacy is cultivated in learning communities designed to connect social and student support programs to the curriculum, which can strengthen relationships between faculty, students, and staff (Tinto, 2003). Such psychosocial factors have been shown to be important for first year STEM students and linked to improved outcomes such as first year retention and graduation rates (Carrino & Gerace, 2016;Solanki et al., 2019). ...
Article
Full-text available
Learning communities for college students have been shown to improve first-year student outcomes and narrow equity gaps, but longer-term data to evaluate whether these benefits persist through multi-year retention and graduation are rare. This is especially important for students in science, technology, engineering and math, who often confront gateway courses and challenging academic cultures in their second and subsequent years. Here, we report on the second, third, and fourth year academic outcomes of three cohorts of a first-year placed-based learning community. Relative to a reference group, participants in the learning community generally showed similar grade acquisition in second- and third-year STEM courses, and initially higher GPAs for learning community participants later diminished to be statistically indistinguishable from the reference group. Nonetheless, units completed after one, two, and three years were slightly higher for learning community participants than for the reference group, and with narrower equity gaps. The learning community also increased and narrowed equity gaps in second- and third-year retention at the institution and in STEM specifically (+6 to +17%). Four-year graduation rates from the institution and in STEM specifically also increased (+8 to +17%), but equity gaps were only narrowed slightly. These results suggest that while benefits of first-year learning communities on grades decline over time, benefits for retention and graduation can persist, though they are insufficient to erase equity gaps. Future work should examine how scaffolding practices in students’ second and third years can better sustain and even magnify inclusive success improvements initiated by first year learning communities.
... The foundation for this learning team is based on the support, sharing, trust, critical thinking and respect for each other and the reflective capacity of each. These characteristics are representative of a professional learning community (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006;Tinto, 2003, Darling-Hammond, 2017 ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Critical thinking (CT) has become an essential competency in this current era because it can lead students to construct knowledge and understandings. The development of students’ critical thinking can change students’ emotions, motivation and metacognition. However, Indonesian students tend to be reluctant to think critically, negotiate their ideas and engage in non-traditional classroom contexts. This study utilised discursive-oriented activities based on pedagogical intervention for shaping the students’ CT skills. Theoretically, this study was framed within a Discourse Historical Approach (Reisigl, 2017). The corpora of this study were 98 students’ final project reports on the Introduction to Linguistics course. Such corpora were analysed with Wodak’s discursive strategies (2009), namely nomination, predication, argumentation, perspectivization and intensification and mitigation. The findings revealed that the students can shape their critical thinking through (1) recognizing the applied linguistic research, (2) conceptualizing ideas, (3) collecting relevant linguistic data and other needed information, (4) sharing ideas and providing feedback, (5) creating research reports, (6) consulting and evaluating the initial research reports and (7) presenting the research reports. By deploying critical discourse analysis in English language teaching and learning practices, the teachers can go beyond text analysis and prepare the students to use CT in their lifelong learning. More importantly, these activities do not only foster CT but also critical literacy (CL) and critical pedagogy (CP) required to be an ideal English language teacher
... On one hand, students are likely to benefit from the additional friend in the major 27 that the simple LC helped to promote. Friends provide important help and support with the adjustment during the transition to college 12,13,31 . Particularly in competitive STEM majors, friends can be valuable sources of social capital by improving access to academic resources 27,36 and fostering a heightened sense of belonging 66 . ...
Article
Full-text available
Universities are increasingly using learning communities (LCs) to promote the academic and social integration of entering students, especially within STEM majors. Examining the causal effect of LCs on student networks is necessary to understand the nature and scope of their impact. This study combines a regression discontinuity design with social network analysis to estimate the effect of a simple LC design on the size , strength , structure , and composition of friendship networks among students within the same biological sciences freshman cohort. Results of the quasi-experimental analysis indicate that LC participants acquired one additional friend in the major and increased their share of friends in the LC by 54 percentage-points. Exponential random-graph models that test mediation and alternative friendship mechanisms provide support for the theoretical argument that the LC promoted friendship development by structuring opportunities for interaction through block-registration into courses. Thus, this study shows that even simple LCs can shape the development of friendships through relatively low-cost administrative means. The increased access to resources and support facilitated by the LC is likely beneficial for participating students. However, there is a potential downside when eligibility for participation is determined using academic metrics that separate the student population into distinct classroom environments.
... A válaszadók több 80 százaléka nyilatkozott igenlően, mind az iskolai tanulmányokhoz (összesen 67 fő, nappali tagozaton magasabb az arány), illetve mind a nem formális tanulási környezethez (összesen 55 fő, levelező tagozaton magasabb az arány) kötődően is érkezett válasz. A formális keretek között történő tanuláshoz kötődően általában egy-egy vizsgára való készüléskor vették igénybe a tanulótársaik segítségét a hallgatók, és amennyiben a hallgató együtt is lakik szaktársaival, a tanulástámogató szerepben a kollégiumi és/vagy lakótársi közösség is említésre került (Tinto 2003). Például: "Anatómia kis csoportban.", ...
Chapter
Full-text available
A nemzeti identitás alakulásában a család mellett az intézményes nevelésnek van a legnagyobb szerepe azáltal, hogy az iskola egyik legfontosabb feladata az egységes nemzeti kultúra közvetítése, ami a nemzeti-társadalmi közösséghez való tartozás tudatát erősíti. A tanulási céllal ausztriai iskolába ingázó magyar tanulók helyzete ebből a szempontból speciális. Lakóhelyük, családjuk Magyarországon van, iskolába viszont Ausztriában járnak, az osztrák iskolák pedig az egységes osztrák kultúrát közvetítik számukra, és ezáltal – feltételezésünk szerint – az osztrák nemzeti-társadalmi közösséghez való tartozás tudatát erősítik bennük. A kutatás során arra kerestük a választ, hogy ez a kettősség milyen hatással van a magyar tanulók természetes nemzeti identitásának alakulására. A kérdés megválaszolására egy a spontán nemzeti identitás szerkezetének vizsgálatára alkalmas módszert használtunk. A válaszadók 4 fokozatú skálával fejezhették ki a közelség érzését az adott identitásképző elemhez: lakóhelyhez, az iskola településéhez, a lakóhely régiójához, Burgenland tartományhoz, Magyarországhoz, Ausztriához és Európához. A vizsgálatban összesen 90 fő 14-19 év közötti középiskolás vett részt, ebből 45 fő osztrák, 45 pedig magyar iskolába jár. Az eredményeket összehasonlítva megállapítható, hogy az Ausztriában tanuló és a magyar iskolába járó diákok természetes nemzeti identitásának szerkezete eltérést mutat, és az ausztriai iskoláztatás hatással van a spontán nemzeti azonosulás alakulására.
Chapter
Creating a sense of community in higher education contributes to a productive learning environment. These communities engage students beyond classrooms by promoting participation and increasing the degree of constructive alignment between their learner experience and desired university learning outcomes. The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) university-wide peer program “STIMulate” exemplifies this approach and is the subject of the case study in this chapter. At STIMulate, student-volunteers and program-staff interact as partners, creating a learning community that supports organic development of student culture, embracing the need for members to feel as though they belong and have agency. This philosophy aligns the program with institutional goals around social justice and brings together experienced student-volunteers and academic discipline specialists to provide accessible, student-led and university-wide support for their peers. This chapter features mixed student and staff authorship, with the aim of comparing the lived experiences and developing a shared understanding of how to partner effectively throughout an honours research project. The partnership model as a conceptual framework was employed throughout the project, and is presented in this chapter as evidence of how a student-as-partner model can benefit tertiary student support services, as well as the individuals partaking in authentic partnerships.
Article
Data from a study of a learning community program in an urban community college are used to explore the educational character of student persistence. Analyses reveal that classroom activities influence student persistence by changing the way students and faculty interact within and beyond the classroom setting. Implications for current theories of persistence are discussed and a modified theory proposed.
Article
In the following three excerpts from his 1985 Achieving Educational Excellence: A Critical Assessment of Priorities and Practices in Higher Education, reprinted by permission of Jossey‐Bass Publishers, Alexander W. Astin describes and critiques four traditional conceptions of educational excellence, explains and defends the talent development approach that he espouses, and presents his conception of educational equity. Charles S. Adams comments on Astin's book in this issue's Reviews.
Article
The dimensions and consequences of college student attrition and features of institutional action to deal with attrition are discussed. Patterns of student departure from individual colleges as opposed to permanent college withdrawal are addressed. After synthesizing the research on multiple causes of student leaving, a theory of student departure from college is presented based on the work of Emile Durkheim and Arnold Van Gennep. The theory proposes that student departure may serve as a barometer of the social and intellectual health of college life as much as of the students' experiences at the college. The quality of faculty-student interaction and the student's integration into the school are central factors in student attrition. Attention is directed to features of retention programs, including the time of college actions and variations in policy necessary for different types of students and colleges. It is suggested that effective retention lies in the college's commitment to students. The content, structure, and evaluation methods for assessment of student retention and departure are considered, along with the use of assessment information for developing effective retention programs. (SW)
Article
A classic in the history of American higher education -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- First published in 1932, The Experimental College is the record of a radical experiment in university education. Established at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1927 by innovative educational theorist Alexander Meiklejohn, the "Experimental College" itself was to be a small, intensive, residence-based program within the larger university that provided a core curriculum of liberal education for the first two years of college. Aimed at finding a method of teaching whereby students would gain "intelligence in the conduct of their own lives," the Experimental College gave students unprecedented freedom. Discarding major requirements, exams, lectures, and mandatory attendance, the program reshaped the student-professor relationship, abolished conventional subject divisions, and attempted to find a new curriculum that moved away from training students in crafts, trades, professions, and traditional scholarship. Meiklejohn and his colleagues attempted instead to broadly connect the democratic ideals and thinking of classical Athens with the dilemmas of daily life in modern industrial America. The experiment became increasingly controversial within the university, perhaps for reasons related less to pedagogy than to personalities, money, and the bureaucratic realities of a large state university. Meiklejohn's program closed its doors after only five years, but this book, his final report on the experiment, examines both its failures and its triumphs. This edition brings back into print Meiklejohn's original, unabridged text, supplemented with a new introduction by Roland L. Guyotte. In an age of increasing fragmentation and specialization of academic studies, The Experimental College remains a useful tool in any examination of the purposes of higher education. "Alexander Meiklejohn's significance in the history of American education stems largely from his willingness to put ideas into action. He tested abstract philosophical theories in concrete institutional practice. The Experimental College reveals the dreams as well as the defeats of a deeply idealistic reformer. By asking sharp questions about enduring purposes of liberal democratic education, Meiklejohn presents a message that is meaningful and useful in any age."—Adam Nelson author of Education and Democracy: The Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn A reprint of the unabridged, original 1932 edition. Published in partnership with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries Alexander Meiklejohn (1872–1964) was the author of many articles and books, including Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government. Educated in philosophy at Brown and Cornell universities, he became a dean at Brown and then president of Amherst College. In 1925, he was invited by Glenn Frank, president of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, to establish the Experimental College. Meiklejohn later founded the San Francisco School of Social Studies, a pioneering adult education program. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 for his activities in defense of First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, and assembly during the McCarthy era.
Bringing community service into the curriculum. The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • B Jacoby
Jacoby, B. (1994). Bringing community service into the curriculum. The Chronicle of Higher Education. August, 32.
Learning communities: Creating connections among students, faculty, and disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning
  • F Gablenick
  • J Macgregor
  • R Matthews
  • B L Smith
Gablenick, F., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R., & Smith, B.L. (1990). Learning communities: Creating connections among students, faculty, and disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 41 (Spring). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc..
The experimental college Involvement in learning: Realizing the potential of American higher education
  • A Meiklejohn
Meiklejohn, A.The experimental college. New York: Harper & Row, 1932. National Institute of Education (1984). Involvement in learning: Realizing the potential of American higher education. Washington D.C. U.S. Department of Education.