learning communities, science, curriculum


Learning communities (LCs) offer high-impact practices of active learning and practical application, but such practices demand devoted class time and room for reflection. Core science courses that serve as prerequisites for more advanced courses have specific and fixed content that offers no space in which to incorporate the ideals of LCs. Wagner College’s three-course model for first-year LCs solves this conundrum by providing a Reflective Tutorial (RFT)—a course dedicated to critical thinking, frequent writing, reflection, and practical application through experiential learning—that bridges two content courses based on a well-developed theme. This structure allows any course appropriate for first-year students, including core science courses, to be incorporated in an LC. Two faculty members work as a team to create the three-course LC; each faculty member teaches one of the content courses to the same group of 24-28 students. The two instructors team teach the RFT or offer independent small sections of the RFT; the RFT replaces the traditional first-year writing course. Specific examples are provided of LCs incorporating a core science course.

Nicholas Richardson is a Professor of Psychology at Wagner College in Staten Island, NY.

Patricia A. Tooker is the Dean for Integrated Learning and an Associate Professor in the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing at Wagner College.

Amy Eshleman is a Professor of Psychology at Wagner College.