Learning communities improving to fulfill expectations

By Staff Writer
February 13, 2003

The freshmen learning communities introduced into the curriculum last semester are receiving mixed responses from students who participated in the program. However, both students and faculty believe that some changes may be necessary to save the reputation of the learning communities in order to live up to the expectations placed upon them.

Catharine O’Connell, dean of academic affairs, proposed the idea for this program to be implemented into Cabrini’s curriculum.

“The learning communities will integrate courses together to make the freshman experience more coherent,” O’Connell said in an interview last spring, prior to the beginning of the program. “When students are in more than one class together they are more likely to explore ideas within the class because they feel comfortable with their peers and in addition they are more likely to continue the discussion of academic topics outside of class because they work together as a group.”

O’Connell’s predictions did not fall through for some students. Freshman Kristen Catalanotto was in the Writing about Civil Rights course with Dr. Harold William Halbert, which correlates with Dr. Margaret McGuinness’ Religion and the Civil Rights Movement course.

“I really enjoyed the experience of being in a learning community,” Catalanotto said. “The learning community experience allowed me to become friends with the people I had both classes with. Knowing everyone made it easier to discuss different issues in class.”

Halbert shares these same sentiments about the student relationships in the learning community. “It’s good socially because students keep tabs on each other,” he said. “It’s easier to find out what’s going on with students than in other situations.”

However, there were some detectable flaws with the first semester of this program, according to some freshmen. “I felt that the learning communities this year were pretty well organized except for time scheduling,” freshman Maureen Cooper said.

“This means that instead of having a Monday/Friday morning class for religion and a Monday/Wednesday class for English composition 101, we should have had the two classes right after one another on the same days.”

Cooper is not the only one to recognize this scheduling conflict. Halbert also realized this dilemma and offers a plan to rearrange the class times to make it more beneficial to students. “Next semester we will be scheduling the two classes back to back,” he said.

Also, the random placement into particular communities seems to be a less appealing part of the program. “It was horrible and not very structured,” freshman Amanda Marinko said. She was placed into a learning community taught by biology professor Sandra Devenney and English professor Ted Blaisdell. “I would have picked something else. I wasn’t really interested in that topic because I don’t really like science,” Marinko said.

Prior to entering Cabrini, incoming freshman are sent a package giving them the option to participate in a learning community. Should they choose to, they have to rank in order which communities they would prefer to be a part of.

“We try to honor as many requests as possible,” Chad May, Registrar records and data coordinator, said. “However, if everyone selects the same section for their first choice, it becomes a pretty random process.”

The teaching partnership between two professors for the learning communities is one of the benefits to the experience. “Overall, the learning community proved that both of my teachers had put in a considerable amount of time and patience to working and compromising ideas that could be brought up in both classroom atmospheres,” Cooper said.

The cross-referencing of topics for the learning communities also intrigued the professors involved in the program. “There is nothing quite as interesting as having a student bring up the biography of Malcolm X, which I haven’t read in years, because it was covered in the other class,” Halbert said.

When asked about his perspective on the future of the program, he said, “It will continue because there is a lot of administrative push behind it and enthusiasm among the faculty.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Staff Writer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap