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Iowa State University

Learning Communities

Guidelines for Best Practice in Learning Community Assessment (3-02)

  1. Identify the intended learning outcomes of the learning community experience.
    Cognitive outcomes related to achievement (e.g., increased communication skills)
    • Affective outcomes related to student development (e.g., increased tolerance, decreased anxiety, increased career maturity, etc.)
    • Social outcomes that create a supportive learning environment (e.g., increased sense of belonging).
  2. Clarify how the intended outcomes of the learning community experience will help students reach the intended outcomes of the academic program.
  3. Design learning community experiences to help students achieve intended outcomes.
  4. Identify a control group, if possible.
  5. Decide what types of measures will assess the intended outcomes (e.g., examination of student work, surveys, student reflections, etc.) Develop a realistic plan for collecting data from both learning community students and control students.
  6. Collect background data on students (e.g., demographic information, learning styles) to find out:
    • Who participates in learning communities
    • How they respond to the learning community experience
    Gather feedback about the effectiveness of the intervention itself. Student perceptions of the learning community experience can help interpret other assessment findings and provide information to guide program improvement.
    • Assess student satisfaction with the experience.
    • Assess the effectiveness of important components of the learning community (e.g., peer mentoring)
    • Consider the use of focus groups, interviews, or student reflections in journals or portfolios to find out what the experience meant to students. This approach may increase your understanding of the learning community and point out variables you haven't already identified.
  7. Monitor the long-term effectiveness of the learning community by collecting retention and GPA data for both learning community students and controls.
  8. Use the results. Hold a team meeting involving everyone on the learning community teaching/delivery team to look at the results and consider improvements that can be (a) incorporated in the future or (b) conveyed to future faculty, staff, and peer mentors who teach in the learning community.