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Wofford Hosts National ‘Learning Communities’ Event

Thursday, November 20, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – Wofford College will host a national Learning Communities Open House on Friday, Nov. 21, with faculty and administrators coming from throughout the region.

Wofford was invited to host the event by the National Learning Communities Project (NLCP), which earlier this year selected the college to be among 19 institutions to participate in an NLCP institute aimed at strengthening innovative approaches to college teaching and learning.

A six-person interdisciplinary team from Wofford participated in a five-day residential institute in June, where they shared highlights of Wofford’s learning communities initiative and took away ideas on how to further strengthen the college’s program. The team included faculty members from the departments of biology (Ellen Goldey, G.R. Davis and George Shiflet), psychology (David Pittman), English (John Lane) and history (Clayton Whisnant).

The Open House is aimed at bringing together faculty from throughout the region who are interested in learning communities as a pedagogy to help students build intellectual connections between subjects and build social connections with each other at the same time. Learning communities have proven to be powerful in fostering deeper student engagement in academic work and increasing student success in college. Friday’s all-day event will feature workshops and discussions about the rewards and challenges of adopting a curricular learning communities (CLC) model, says Goldey. “We will highlight our freshman program, funded by the National Science Foundation, which fully integrates a course in the sciences with a course in the humanities. Following a session that provides an overview of the NSF-funded model and its rationale, each CLC team will host a workshop.”

Goldey says each CLC has been designed and implemented by two faculty members and two undergraduate “preceptors,” who will describe the “nuts and bolts” of developing the syllabus, selecting reading materials when no textbook exists, designing and implementing an educational outreach program for grade-school children, and more.

Virginia Crumpler, a student preceptor from Chapel Hill, N.C., notes that the preceptors “serve as a link between the new freshmen students and the professors that students not in learning communities don’t always have. We help bridge the gap and get the freshmen engaged in the subject.”

“The second theme of our Open House will be to highlight particularly innovative and effective teaching strategies that deepen student learning and engagement,” Goldey says. “These ideas can be incorporated into any learning community or stand-alone course and include community-based learning, communications skills development, and effective uses of educational technology.

“We believe that Wofford’s learning communities represent an exciting way to establish an interdisciplinary foundation upon which students can build and integrate their knowledge,” Goldey continues. “We sincerely hope that there will be pieces, even ‘chunks,’ of ideas from the Open House that participants will find interesting and helpful.”

The Open House will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here is the schedule:

8:30 a.m., Registration, coffee, muffins

9 a.m., Welcome, Learning Communities Overview, Wofford’s NSF-funded Curricular Model (See http://webs.wofford.edu/goldeyes/sciencehumanities/learningcommunities.html.)

9:45 a.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “The Nature and Culture of Water,” Ellen Goldey (biology), John Lane (English); B) “Cosmology and Ultimate Questions,” Steve Zides (physics) and Jim Keller (philosophy)

10:30 a.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “The Mammal in the Mirror,” G.R. Davis (biology) and Charles Kay (philosophy); B) “The Senses, the Mind, and Our Perception of Reality,” David Pittman (psychology) and Clayton Whisnant (history) (This session will interact with students in the learning community.)

11:30 a.m., Lunch, poster session, discussion with learning communities faculty, students and preceptors

1 p.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “The Science in Science Fiction,” Steve Zides (physics) and Deno Trakas (English); B) “Scientific and Literary Perspectives on Madness,” Cecile McAninch (psychology) and Sally Hitchmough (English)

1:45 p.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “Community-based Learning in Modern Languages: Spartanburg as a Learning Laboratory,” Laura Barbas Rhoden (Spanish); B) “Communicating Across the Curriculum: What 50 Minutes with a Speech Professor Can Do for Your Students,” Linda Powers (communications, English)

2:30 p.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “A Few Choice Words: The Benefits of Oral Testing,” Jhon Akers (Spanish, Career Services); B) “The Power of Educational Technology in Capstone Projects and Case Studies: Latin American Studies,” Nancy Mandlove (Spanish, Intercultural Studies for Business); C) “The Study of Patterns: Critical Reasoning and Problem Solving in Mathematics,” Charlotte Knotts-Zides (mathematics)

3:15 p.m., Concurrent Sessions: A) “Medical Case Studies and Other Cool Stuff,” Bob Moss (biology); B) “Cool Technology Tools to ‘Connect’ with Your Students,” Natalie Grinnell (English) and Christine Dinkins (philosophy)

4 p.m., Refreshments