LEARNING COMMUNITY: A TOOL TO ENHANCE LEARNING AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
University of Bari (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:The university reform introduced in Italy in 2001 has pointed out a new concept of university education focusing attention on the vocational purpose of the academic path. Learning communities are one of the instruments used in American and European universities in order to achieve several purposes: promoting academic success and student retention, developing academic integration and preventing dropout intentions through active and collaborative learning methods (Zhu, Baylen, 2005; Smith, MacGregor, Matthews, Gabelnick, 2004; Kilpatrick et al., 2003; Kellog, 1999; Lenning, Ebbers, 1999; Shapiro, Levine, 1999; Tinto, 1997). Within the last few years, the University of Bari has started an experimentation implementing learning communities within Work and Organizational Psychology courses at the faculty of Psychology. Our research pointed out the influence of learning communities in increasing several academic outcomes such as preventing dropout intentions and also as an early instrument of vocational guidance because it allows students to experiment themselves into skills and activities useful for workplace context.
The sample encompassed 227 freshman students of psychology randomly parted into two sub-groups in which only one followed the learning community method, the second one, which is the control group, had traditional lectures without any discussions or participation by students. Learning communities’ program was focused on the development of academic skills. The measures adopted were: a self report questionnaire on academic integration (Pascarella, Terenzini, 1980), academic commitment (Meyer, Allen, 1991), academic skills (Cottrell, 2009), persistence intentions (Eaton, Bean, 1995) and skills transfer (Sarchielli, 2008; Cottrell, 2003). The questionnaire was administered at the beginning and at the end of the experimentation in order to find out if any variation within and between the participants would have took place. Results partially confirmed the hypotheses. Future perspectives are discussed.
Keywords: Learning community, academic success, student retention.