165 Learning Communities in Horticulture Enhance Student Learning

in HortScience

A learning community was developed for first-year students majoring in horticulture at Iowa State Univ. in 1998. Learning communities are a curriculum design that schedules courses for both students and faculty to encourage community and connections among students, between students and faculty, and among faculty. Learning communities can offer students more opportunities for interactions among each other, academic assistance through supplemental instruction and/or group study sessions, and planned horticulture-related activities, all of which are important for success and retention of first-year students. First-year students in the horticulture learning community enrolled in the same courses and sections of five courses. The first-year English composition course was linked to the second-year principles of horticulture course that requires writing-across-the-curriculum activities. Faculty mentoring was provided through local field trips to horticultural sites of keen interest to the students. Academic environment survey results showed students rated their expectations highly for developing a network of other students as a resource group and for learning cooperatively in groups. Iowa State Univ. supports learning communities by providing faculty development and facilitating course registration, peer mentoring, supplemental instruction for challenging core courses, and academic and student services, to strengthen undergraduate teaching programs within and outside of the classroom.

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