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Introducing, Defining, and Using Learning Communities

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1 Introducing, Defining, and Using Learning Communities
Don Lucas, Ph.D. Associate Professor Northwest Vista College Psychology Department San Antonio, Texas Palo Alto College, Fall Convocation Tuesday, August 18th, 2008 OK. We are going to do a couple of things to start with. First let’s do a little experiment during this talk… This half of the room do this for the next twenty minutes; while this half of the room do this for the next twenty minutes—I’m serious—I’m watching you! Second, now. I have a question for y’all to begin this presentation? I’ll give you one of three brings—to make you happy? Who wants a chocolate bar—aka. Oxytocin? Who wants a $5 bill? Who wants a bus pass? But before you answer—I’m going to make it a bit more complicated—which of these things is most likely to not only bring you happiness—but instead pleasure? And which is most likely to bring you contentment?

2 What is a Learning Community?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word happiness?

3 Who is going to be more successful?
Together Cooperative Sharing Explicit goals Dependent What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word happiness? Disconnected Competitive Selfish Ambiguous goals Independent * These factors define not only students, but the faculty and curricula too. 3

4 A Learning Community is…
“In higher education, learning communities are classes that are linked or clustered during an academic term, often around an interdisciplinary theme, and enroll a common cohort of students. A variety of approaches are used to build these learning communities, with all intended to restructure the students’ time, credit, and learning experiences to build community among students, between students and their teachers, and among faculty members and disciplines.” In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… (http://www.evergreen.edu/washcenter/lcfaq.htm#21,as cited on July 4, 2008)

5 A Learning Community is Social…
BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness.

6 A Learning Community is Cooperative…
BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness. 6

7 Galton was wrong! C D B A A F
BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness. 7

8 A Learning Community is Structured…
BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness. 8

9 Programs in which a small cohort of students enrolls in larger classes that faculty DO NOT coordinate. Intellectual connections and community- building often take place in an additional integrative seminar. (MODEL 1) + Programs of two or more classes linked thematically or by content, which a cohort of students takes together. The faculty DO plan the program collaboratively. (MODEL 2) BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness. Programs of coursework that faculty members team-teach. The course work is embedded in an integrated program of study. (MODEL 3) (MacGregor, Smith, Matthews,& Gabelnick, 2002) 9

10 LC Model 1 Examples NVC STELLAR Project FTIC FT Science and Math
Under-represented ethnic minority Science Friday Seminar Individuals Within Groups Conference PSYC 2319 (Social Psychology) ENGL 1302 (English Composition) Conference development and presentation In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… Academic Cooperative PSYC 2389 (Academic Cooperative) Field trips, conference attendance and presentations

11 Northwest Weekly (July 24, 2008)
Northwest Weekly (July 24, 2008). Northwest Vista Students Study Happiness, pg Mistaking Contentment for Happiness, Evans, A.M., Guerra, S., and Romero, S., Texas Lutheran University Psi Chi Conference, Preceptor, Spring, (First Place, research competition.) Evans, A.M., Guerra, S., Romero, S., & Lucas, D. R. (2008). Mistaking Contentment for Happiness. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Kansas City, Missouri. Ancira, J., & Lucas, D. R. (2007). Distinguishing among Pleasure, Happiness, and Contentment. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Fort Worth, Texas. Lucas, D. R., & Ancira, J. (2007). I’m Happy—You are Not! Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Fort Worth, Texas. Dunne, B. (April, 2006). Want a long-term relationship? You better have a broken heart! Paper presented at the Southwest Psychological Association’s annual meeting, Psi Chi. Austin, Texas. (faculty sponsor) Lucas, D. R., Lloyd, J. A., & Magaloni, I. R. (2005). In Spite of Content, Activity Begets Happiness. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Memphis, Tennessee. Lucas, D. R., Magaloni, I. R., Ross, C., & Kaylor, C. (in preparation). Reading’s Influence on Happiness: A Study of Active and Passive Voice BUT, do any of these things work? Positive Psychologists have examined these and other items to form a recipe of happiness. 11

12 LC Model 2 Examples What YOU are doing! Developmental Students
ENGL SDEV (Student Development) 0170 ENGL SDEV 0170 READ SDEV 0170 Pre-Nursing Majors PSYC 2301 (Introductory Psychology) Flex I PSYC 2314 (Lifespan) Flex II In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently…

13 LC Model 3 Examples Making Sexual Sense
PSYC 2306 (Human Sexuality) + ENGL 2370 (Sexuality of Literature) On Being Normal PSYC 2371 (Abnormal Psychology) + HUMA 2323 (World Cultures) Women’s Studies ENGL 1302 (Composition) + HUMA 2319 The Art of Writing ENGL 1301 (Composition) + ARTS 1301 (Art Appreciation) In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… Sociologically Speaking SOCI 1301 (Intro.) + SPCH 1311 (Intro.)

14 Why have LCs? Improve Retention Answer the “why” question
For Students… Improve retention Increase student learning and achievement Increase time on task both in and out of class Promote active learning and teamwork skills Increase the success rate for under-represented students Increase entry and completion in certain majors For Faculty… Answer the “why” question Increase experimentation within curriculum Broaden andragogical repertoire of faculty Increase faculty engagement with one another Promote deeper interaction among faculty and students Promote stronger relationships among faculty and student affairs staff (MacGregor & Smith, 2002) Improve Retention Answer the “why” question In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… Promote stronger relationships among faculty and student affairs staff

15 Why have LCs? For Student Affairs Staff Promote deeper interaction between student affairs and faculty Broaden andragogical repertoire and deeper interaction among student affairs professionals and students Broaden andragogical repertoire and deeper interaction among student affairs professionals and students For Curriculum Increase coherence of general education program Make curriculum more interdisciplinary Infuse skills such as writing, speaking, math, and critical thinking across the curriculum Create more engaging entry points to certain majors For Institution Enhance the quality of undergraduate education Foster a climate of innovation Increase the sense of community within the institution Promote meaningful collaboration between faculty and staff, faculty and administration Promote a culture of assessment, of learning about student learning (MacGregor & Smith, 2002) Infuse skills such as writing, speaking, math, and critical thinking across the curriculum In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… Promote a culture of assessment, of learning about student learning

16 How does one start? . platform courses for specific majors
Identify goals for a learning community initiative for students for faculty for the curriculum for the institution Consider areas of need first-time-in-college adjustment needs and developmental opportunities high-risk courses gateway courses and pre-requisites . platform courses for specific majors courses for bridging skills/content, theory/practice, liberal arts/professions across-curriculum initiatives In three studies totaling over 600 participants (n = 635), we found… Consistently… (MacGregor, Smith, Matthews,& Gabelnick, 2002)

17 A recipe for building a LC
STEP 1 Research and information must be compiled. Faculty must have a clear idea both about learning communities and the different disciplines with which they will be involved. STEP 2 Focus areas should be identified. Faculty should talk with administration, other faculty, and the student body in order to gauge interest and support in learning communities. Any special funding or scheduling needs should also be identified at this time. STEP 3 The courses to be taught should be identified. Careful attention must be paid to the courses most in demand, as well as those courses needed to complete degree plans and those courses most likely to transfer. Other interested faculty should be included in discussions, and appropriate and adequate information should be provided so that the faculty can make informed decisions about whether or not to participate in learning communities. You are going to get 3 presentations for the price of one… Seriously, this is really the basis of this presentation and the basic premise of my book—the happiness illusion We also asked people in these studies about the prompt words: Pleasure and Contentment. We found consistent with pleasure, people said, but with contentment, something changed… people confused happiness with contentment… This is the premise of our problem. State the happiness Illusion here—people are confusing happiness for contentment—whereas happiness is.. And contentment is… What’s the basis of this illsuion? (Killacky, Thomas, & Accomando, 2002;

18 A recipe for building a LC—continued
STEP 4 The preliminary planning should begin. Killacky et al. (2002) identify this step as a "critical component" (p. 770). At this point, funding and administrative support have already been acquired, courses have been identified, and faculty participants have been chosen. The most critical component of the program is now ready to be undertaken: team planning. It is suggested that this stage start at least one semester before the actual learning community is to be implemented. Detailed lessons and syllabi should be compiled, and plans should be put in place to continue the program if one of the participants relocates. (Killacky, Thomas, & Accomando, 2002;

19 A recipe for building a LC—continued
STEP 5 Dispersal of information throughout the campus. Advisors and counselors must be made aware of the program so they can relay the information to the students and properly place them in classes for which they are best suited. STEP 6 Monitor, assess, and evaluate. Hopefully, the careful planning has created a functioning learning community, and at this point, the program should be monitored and tweaked as needed. Data on success and retention rates should be gathered and compared to those of other programs to determine if the learning community is accomplishing its goals. All participants in a learning community should be given the chance to evaluate the courses at the end of the semester, and this information should be analyzed for any interesting suggestions (Killacky et al., 2002). When Positive Psychologists have measured HAPPY people--determined by the following factors--they have found 10 things to be consistently associated with happy people: Measurements of happiness: 1. Facial expressions—a smile (note: facial-feedback hypothesis) A “real” smile—Duchene (after its discoverer, Guillaume Duchene)—uses the zygomatic (moving the lips upward) and orbicularis oculi (moving/crinkling the skin around the eyes) muscles of the face A “fake” smile—Pan American (after the defunct airline)—uses only the zygomatic muscles 2. Physiological arousal—general heart rate respiration rate sweat gland activity—galvanic skin response 3. Self report (self)—Life satisfaction Cognitive, Ed Diener—Satisfaction With Life Scale Visual—Pictures of smiling faces—Which ones are you? 4. Self report (others) How do significant others rate a person’s level of happiness? 5. Memory/Free Association Past Present Future We used Diener’s Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larson, & Griffin, 1985) (Killacky, Thomas, & Accomando, 2002;

20 Problems with your life…
Comments. Questions? Problems with your life… A a neuroscientist, I’ve always been interested in basic, objective, behavior; that is, behavior that is consistent throughout the species. Behaviors like: eye movements, muscular coordination, perceptual adaptation, the sensori-motor system, etc. (read slide). What is often consistent about these behaviors, is that they can also be classified as “lower-order” behaviors; that is, behaviors that are controlled by ontogenetically OLD potions of the brain. In general, the biologists are likely to view these behaviors around the so-called 4 F behaviors. Contrast this against subjective behaviors that often cannot be replicated across the species and are personal and unique. These behaviors are oft classified as being higher-order, in-that higher-order (ontogenetically new) portions of the brain are involved in their initiation and action. Don Lucas, Ph.D. Associate Professor Northwest Vista College San Antonio, Texas Be Content… or at the least bit: Happy!


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