GC learning communities help students interact

The communities help students adjust to the college environment via small groups.

General College’s faculty is developing innovative ways to actively engage students in their learning through learning communities.

Rashne Jehangir, a teaching specialist for the college, is one of many faculty members at the forefront of this initiative.

Learning communities are meant to restructure General College’s curriculum, which will allow more intellectual interaction, Jehangir said.

Learning communities create an interdisciplinary learning environment, she said, where students and faculty members learn from one another.

“Working with the same students allows for flexibility and design,” she said.

The communities also focus on social and academic integration, Jehangir said.

“We want to develop a sense of belonging for students and help them transition into college from high school,” Jehangir said.

She said learning communities are a great way to develop a sense of academic excellence among students.

“We help students develop critical-thinking skills and help them find their own voice,” Jehangir said.

She taught a multicultural learning community focused on identity, community and agency.

She said a national survey of student engagement showed students who are more engaged with their learning have a better college experience.

Bridging theory and practice

Jehangir is one of six faculty and advising staff members who have been invited to participate in a learning community summer institute at the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education to further develop the initiative.

Jehangir also serves on the advisory board of The Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy. She was actively involved in a research project called the Multicultural Awareness Project for Institutional Transformation.

“MAP-IT was a survey that focused on creating a community, and learning communities focus on what kinds of community can we create,” Jehangir said.

She said that learning communities happen in the fall. This year, they had four communities, serving approximately 80 students.

In fall, she said, they hope to enroll 100 students.

“We want to move the initiative to serve more students,” she said.

Many students who took part in the multicultural learning community, which was led by Jehangir and General College instructors Pat James and Pat Bruch, said it was the best experience of their lives.

“The learning community was like home,” first-year student Raulin Ballard said. “At home is where a lot of your learning really takes place.”

The students said it was a great way to meet new people, and the faculty was a great source of support and encouragement.

“It was easier to get to know the teachers in the learning community,” first-year student Silas Wellington said. “They adjust to your work load, and that helps with your learning”.

First-year student Felicia Crittenden expressed similar views.

“The faculty help you achieve your goals,” she said.

First-year student Jessica Weiss said the community helps engage students in learning.

“I went from having a C average in high school to a 4.0 because of this experience,” Ballard said.