Friday, April 1, 2016

The inquiry-based approach to higher ed that could prevent college students from dropping out

There may be a more democratic way of learning than declaring a traditional college major. A growing body of research-based evidence shows that student learning communities (SLCs) can provide an effective path to increased academic achievement as well as student engagement and retention. 

Student learning communities are curricular programs designed by faculty and instructional design staff working together with a group of students. These students (known as “the cohort”) take a shared set of courses that are usually connected by a common theme or overarching set of questions or learning outcomes – a key feature of inquiry-based learning . . . 

The learning activities and content from one course are usually designed by a faculty member independent of the learning activities and content of courses taught by other faculty, even within the same program. This puts the onus of figuring out how to link the theories and principles from one course to the other almost entirely on the students. 

While some highly self-motivated students are able to make these connections, others are less able to do so. At best, students who are not able to make the cross-course connections are not able to maximize their learning experience, and at worse, students may feel frustrated and underperform academically or even drop out of school. Connecting different theories and principles across courses is very important because that is where higher order learning occurs and it is the heart of academic inquiry. It is in the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of different bodies of knowledge that higher learning takes place. It is for these reasons that student learning communities have started to become more popular on college campuses.

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