An evaluative study of a cross-cultural learning community
In search of these answers, the investigator immersed herself into this student microcosm for the fall 1999 semester. The data were collected through extensive classroom observation, occasional reviewing of the instructor's materials and students' writing, and finally conducting two focus groups in the beginning the following semester where the students were given an opportunity to describe their experiences in their own words. The findings can be summarized in the following way. Taking classes together, living in the same residence hall, having a network and support of friends, having a peer mentor and faculty and staff members available, and experiencing various cultures firsthand made the transition for both international and U.S. students easier, more interesting and richer in an educational sense.This qualitative study attempted to evaluate a cross-cultural learning community at Iowa State University. The need for this study was dictated by a variety of factors. First, it was a response to the call for assessment of learning communities. Practitioners need to know in what ways learning communities succeed and in what ways they do not. Moreover, they need to know how students' experiences in learning communities can be improved. Similarly, the existing research reports that learning communities enhance educational reforms, and thus make the academy more responsive to societal needs. This study illustrated how a specific learning community at ISU responds to changes in the academy as well as in the society. Second, the need to study a cross-cultural learning community was determined by its unique and innovative nature. Because cross-cultural learning communities of this kind are virtually nonexistent, knowing what benefits they have to offer to their participants is of great importance. The investigator sought to answer three research questions: a) What role did this learning community play in the students' transition to university life? b) Did the cross-cultural learning community enhance cross-cultural awareness and understanding? If yes, in what ways? c) How did the students perceive this learning community experience in general?