By Samantha Sierra
For years the Learning Communities Coordination Team has made it a practice to “drop in” on new links during their link meetings to see how things were going both with integration and collaboration. We would always give them a heads up prior to coming and would stay a short time or longer if needed or wanted. A few semesters ago, motivated by a looming visit by Middle States, we decided to no longer restrict the visits to new links but to drop-in on all the links when the semester is about halfway through. We also needed to introduce at those meetings a clearer and shared ongoing assessment narrative that we had created on the Academic Commons where we asked the faculty to reflect on a handful of questions, both in the middle of the semester and after the term was over, as well as post their syllabi and examples of student work. The Academic Commons also asked them to reflect on the success of their integrated assignment(s) and what tweaks they might be considering.
At the drop-ins we wanted to offer our help in any way the link might need and provide certain information that they may have not been aware of, as well as some small funding that they could request for a class trip or event. Checking in with all the links proved to be a good idea, as we were able to garner a better understanding of how things were going and what frustrations the instructors might be experiencing, and provide any guidance, support, or information immediately. It was particularly helpful for those link members who were unable to come to the larger all staff/faculty meetings. For the Coordination Team it also provided insight as to what links needed, how often they were meeting in person and/or if e-mails were their most useful tool for communication, etc.
Recently, at the Learning Communities Kick Off meeting traditionally held at the beginning of the term, faculty expressed a desire to have more input regarding certain elements of the Learning Communities. We immediately responded to their concerns with what we felt was the perfect vehicle to begin that line of communication – the drop-ins – where in small groups they could share their enthusiasm and express their ideas, get clarification, and take a more active role in supporting the Learning Communities.
The Team revised the questions that we would bring to the table and added inquiries such as “What suggestions would you make regarding professional development?” and “How are you finding the current process of assessment of integrative learning both in terms of method and documentation?” Besides hoping these opportunities for discussion would help make the whole process feel more inclusive, we also found they immediately brought about a dialogue that could prove to be a precursor to new ideas and conversation. All in all, the visits with our links in any configuration have proven to be a successful tool both within each link and as a whole for the Learning Communities in our desire to be as positive and effective as possible not only for our students but for everyone involved.
- Links: the two or three classes that we combine to work together during the term to form a Learning Community
- Coordination Team: A combination of staff and faculty that oversee the administration and maintenance of the Learning Communities
Samantha Sierra is the Director of Learning Communities for Student Affairs and part of the Coordination Team at Kingsborough Community College.