Paired, developmental learning communities: a case study of one institution

Faga, Kelly Jo
Major Professor
Larry Ebbers
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

The purpose of this study was to examine a paired, developmental learning community to understand how it enhances learning at a selected community college---Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. Learning communities are defined as purposeful restructuring of an undergraduate curriculum that thematically link or cluster courses together and enroll a common group of students (MacGregor & Smith, 2005). Thus, the research focused on students in a paired, developmental learning community. Developmental learning communities consist of two developmental classes that are linked with other courses at the college and enroll a common group of students;The primary focus was to view paired, developmental learning communities through the eyes of at-risk students who participated in them. To complement this part of the research, a persistence study was included in the findings that examined the percentage of students in a paired, developmental learning community who persisted to the next quarter;In addition, secondary quantitative data previously collected by Metro was utilized as a part of study to gain a deeper understanding of the paired, developmental learning communities. Secondary data included Likert scale assessment and open-ended surveys. In addition, focus groups, interviews, and observations were conducted by the researcher;The overall findings revealed that a higher level of comfort in the classroom was demonstrated by the students. Connections were developed between classes and topic; and student-linked subject matter from one class to the next. The study also revealed collaboration among faculty, a higher level of support and encouragement from fellow peers and faculty during the experience, and a strong sense of community and commitment from both the faculty and fellow students;Based on the themes identified in this study and the model for core practices in learning communities developed by Smith et al. (2000), a new model was proposed in this study for core practices in developmental learning communities. The model is a combination of attributes derived from the Likert survey, open-ended survey, observations, focus groups, informal interviews, literature review and the merged themes developed from this case study.