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Vol 39  No 2
Aug. 31, 2006


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Pilot program will create learning community

by Pamela Gill

Helping students to experience a sense of community and a sense of coherence in their undergraduate education are the goals of a pilot project at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

Titled the Thematic Learning Community, the program will see 24 first-year students register in the same sections of French and psychology at Grenfell College, Memorial’s Corner Brook campus, during the fall semester.

“These disciplines were chosen because they are popular in the first year, especially for future teachers,” said project co-facilitator Prof. Matthew Janes, who teaches French at Grenfell College.

“We hope to provide a sense of coherence in the first-year university experience,” added psychology Prof. Jennifer Buckle, also co-facilitator. “The 24 students enrolled will have an opportunity to see thematic links between their courses that they may not have considered otherwise, such as the process of language acquisition from a psychological perspective.”

Prof. Janes agrees. “Links between French and psychology are not at first easy to see,” he said. “We will explore a number of these links with students. For instance, we will facilitate a session with the students exploring motivation and acquiring a second language. Why would you want to learn a second language? There are standard reasons, such as to get a job or to satisfy a university requirement, but there may also be other reasons. For some it may be a way of creating a new identity through language - and that’s linked to issues explored in introductory psychology. ”

Prof. Buckle added, “The program will address both the intellectual and personal aspects of students to help give them a sense of coherence intellectually and a sense of belonging to the Grenfell community. It will also allow us as faculty members to think about the material we teach in new and exciting ways.”

Students who want to be involved will register for Arts 1111. This listing will automatically enrol them in both the French and psychology sections. As part of the program they will attend a special Wednesday afternoon session every week where they’ll explore common elements of the courses, hear from other professors about different disciplines at Grenfell College, as well as from different departments that provide various student services. These sessions will allow them to see the different facets of Grenfell College, as well as how they might apply the skills they are learning in university once they’ve graduated.

Prof. Michael Newton proposed the idea of Thematic Learning Communities at Grenfell. The religious studies professor has also developed and teaches University 1010, a course which shows students what it takes to be successful in university.

“I have been working on the idea for several years as part of my research in finding ways to get first year students fully engaged in their studies right from day one,” said Prof. Newton. “I am pleased we have found some dynamic instructors to initiate the program. We hope to create learning communities in other disciplines in the future.”

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