December 21, 2012
Matt-Stilwell-blog

Faculty Feature: Team Teaching in Learning Communities

When Matt Stilwell was fresh out of graduate school, full of current topics and current teaching methods, ready to greet the students of the 21st century, he turned the clock back to 1905.

He got a job over the summer teaching in the 1905 Boxelder School, a living history project on the grounds of the Fort Collins (Colo.) Museum. Matt taught penmanship, among other subjects. You remember pens, don’t you? They’re those things that were used to write messages to your friends before there was texting.

One-Room Schoolhouse=Learning Community of 19th Century

Boxelder School was a one-room schoolhouse, with all the students engaged in the same room throughout the school day. You could call a one-room schoolhouse the learning community of the 19th and 20th centuries.

21st Century Learning Community is Much Different

Two classes. Two teachers. Same students. At FRCC, this combination of classes is called a learning community. You can find learning communities at every campus and online.

Matt teaches Basic Composition, a developmental class, to students who also enroll in General Psychology I, a college-level, guaranteed-transfer class taught by another professor. And he teaches Introduction to Literature, a college-level, guaranteed-transfer class, to students who also enroll in Basic Composition, which is taught by another professor.

Two Classes are Better than One

Matt, fellow English professor Shawna Van, and others surveyed the research about success among students in developmental classes. They found that the research showed that two classes are better than one, when it comes to success for students. Their work, which started with a grant from the Lumina Foundation, has become a group of thriving and successful learning communities.

Originally, the learning communities paired Basic Composition, a developmental class, with a guaranteed-transfer class such as General Psychology I. The writing skills learned in the one class keep up with the skills required in the other class. Today, the concept has expanded. Students can enroll in two college-level classes paired as a learning community.

Finding Success in Teaching in a Learning Community

“Teaching with another instructor has totally rejuvenated my approach,” Matt says. “I have never learned so much about a subject as when I teach it with another instructor.”

Matt and colleagues at the Larimer and Westminster campuses shared the story of the success of FRCC learning communities at the 2009 Conference on College Composition and Communication in San Francisco. “That was huge recognition,” Matt says. “We were one of the few community colleges to have a proposal accepted.”

Matt Always Wanted to be a Teacher

“There’s something about being in a classroom,” he says. “I have the opportunity to see students grow. You see such dramatic changes, from some students not being able to log on to a computer to being able to write a term paper in Psychology. It’s fun to be in front of people, listening to the discussions and the tangents we go off on.”

“The community college experience is much different from a university environment,” he says. “I like the student body, the diversity, all of that.”

 

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a somewhat-frequent bicycle commuter, a certified soccer referee, and a newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.

Comments:

December 21, 2012 Dion Duran

Learning community classes– what a great concept! As a former advisor, I know first hand that students get excited to knock out two classes at the same time. Also, in reading this article I’m so happy to be a part of FRCC with all or their creative and innovative approaches to education.

January 14, 2013 Amanda Lloyd

I took the learning community class with Matt and Shawna. They are two of the greatest instructors that Front Range has to offer. If you have a chance to take their class, do. It is an amazing oppurtunity.

February 13, 2013 Todd Powell

Matt, because of caring, compassionate instructors like you, we, the students, find our personal expression to share with you and others. Thinking outside the box, with creative imagination, critical thinking, and keen observation. This is our community that openly accepts people where they are at. Keep up the good work to help move them beyond today, to a brighter tomorrow. God Bless You.

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