Purpose – In the USA, as elsewhere, there is an ongoing need to improve quality in higher education. Quality improvement models from business have not been widely embraced, and many other approaches to accountability seem to induce minimal compliance. This paper aims to contend that learning communities represent a viable alternative in the quest for quality. By restructuring the curriculum and promoting creative collaboration, learning communities have become a major reform effort in US colleges. Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides an overview of learning community theory and core practices and four original case studies of institutions that have made learning communities a long‐term focus of their quality improvement efforts. Findings – Findings include: effective learning communities are clearly positioned, aimed at large arenas and issues and are central to the organization's mission; learner‐centered leadership is a key component of effective programs; learning communities offer a high leverage point for pursuing quality; effective learning communities meet faculty where they are; successful initiatives create new organizational structures, roles and processes; successful programs attract and reward competent people and build arenas for learning from one another; and successful programs have a living mission and a lived educational philosophy reaching constantly toward more effective practices. Originality/value – Educators will draw rich lessons from this concise overview of learning community theory and practice and the story of these successful institutions.
Quality Assurance in Education – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 24, 2009
Keywords: Learning; Quality improvement; Higher education; United States of America
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