Call for Proposals: Learning Communities W2017

Faculty interested in integrative learning and collaborative curriculum development are invited to submit a brief proposal to participate in the W2017 phase of Learning Community project.  Proposals must be submitted to Ian MacKenzie or Chris Adam by Monday, December 5, and should be kept to a single page addressing the criteria below.  Up to 6 teachers may receive release for W2017, depending on ECQ funding.

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Meet-up for W2017 Collaborative Course Design


Dawson’s Learning Communities project is looking for teachers interested in working over the W2017 term on the collaborative design of interdisciplinary team-taught courses.

If you’d like to participate, this pizza-powered meet-up on Wednesday November 17, 2.30-4pm in the CoLab 3F.43 is an opportunity to

  • Hear more about the learning community model from teachers leading pilot courses this fall.
  • Meet other teachers interested in working together on integrative learning and problem-based courses.
  • Grab a slice of pizza.

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Fall Snapshots: Learning Communities in Progress

Three learning community pilot pairings (7 courses) are in progress this fall.  Here’s a glimpse of what’s happening in the classrooms, and what the teachers are saying about it.


The Journeys cluster of English, Humanities and Academic Skills is headed by Susan Briscoe, Anjali Choksi and Michelle Smith.

“Our focus since our planning phase for Journeys has been on relationship-building, both between the college and Indigenous communities and in the classroom. While there have been challenges, we have really enjoyed this experience of working so closely with students and collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines and institutions. We are learning so much!” –  Susan Briscoe and Anjali Choksi

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Learning Communities at Long Island University-Brooklyn: A Conversation with Deborah Mutnick

On Wednesday May 11, the LC faculty teams had a Skype meeting with Deborah Mutnick from Long Island University, where Dr. Mutnick is the Director of the LIU-Brooklyn Learning Communities program.  LIU-Brooklyn serves a diverse, urban and suburban student population, with an emphasis on professional programs in the health sciences and business.

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The LIU-Brooklyn LC program was initiated in 2010, in parallel with revisions to core curriculum requirements and efforts to increase student retention.  Designed and led by faculty, the LIU LC program now features the participation of 30 teachers each semester.  While their start-up phase required a lot of effort both in academic planning and advertising the nature of LCs to new students, now hundreds of students complete core requirements in the context of themed course pairings, pairings that draw on Brooklyn and Manhattan as a rich social, cultural and historical backdrop for experiential and integrative learning.

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Designing Assignments for Integrative Learning

Pacific-chorus-frog-and-northwestern-salamander.jpg.638x0_q80_crop-smartAs the winter term comes to an end, the LC teams have been designing integrative assignments for their paired courses.  While each individual course still proceeds via its own sequence of learning activities and assignments, at the centre of the paired course endeavour is a shared assignment that is introduced and worked on in both classes.

The integrative assignment should challenge students to make connections between the varying materials of each course; to apply different disciplinary concepts and methodologies to complex issues and problems; to synthesize and evaluate outcomes; and to reflect on the process.  We’ve drawn on several resources to guide the design of these assignments, from the Washington Center’s heuristic Designing Purposeful and Intentional Integrative Learning to Boix Mansilla and Duraising’s Framework for Assessing Integrative Learning.

Each teaching pair now has a tentative idea of their integrative assignments.  Here are their synopses: Continue reading

November 3 – Q & A with the Registrar: Scheduling Paired Courses

On November 3, Ian and Rob met with Carmela Gumelli, Dean of Academic Systems, to discuss the feasibility of running several pilot learning community course pairings for F2016.   Carmela walked us through the standard procedures for scheduling, and identified some of the special needs of different programs, profiles, areas of study and certificates at Dawson.   Procedures to force time blocks already exist, which would permit scheduling of back-to-back courses enrolled with a common cohort; it is then a matter of doing so with an eye to optimizing the availability of the course pairings to as many students as possible, and strategizing to recruit the right students at the right time to register in them.  We also touched on the possibility that intensives could be utilized in course pairings or clusters, potentially opening learning community pairings to students whose timetables are crowded with preregistered courses.   We left the meeting with the Registrar’s green light to develop and offer several pilot learning community course pairings for F2016.

October 28-30, 2015 – Conference of the Atlantic Consortium for Learning Communities

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Rob Cassidy and Ian MacKenzie attended the annual conference-retreat for ACLC colleges and universities in Hartford, CT.  Joye Hardimann from Evergreen State College gave the keynote address, speaking to how inclusivity and diversity can by promoted through appreciative inquiry.  Subsequent sessions over the next two days touched on integrating community-based research and service into course work; using urban settings like New York City as the focus of themed learning communities; adopting a “growth mindset” outlook to promote success for 1st generation college students; the promotion of “high impact practices” in teaching and learning; and strategies for introducing and sustaining curricular innovation across institutions.

The conference afforded us a opportunity to gather a range of clear and concrete ideas of how other colleges and universities are succeeding at curricular innovation via the learning community model.  The collective experience and insights of ACLC insitutions is likely to be a significant resource as we move forward in the development of Dawson’s own LC framework.

October 16, 2015: Ped Day – Faculty Collaboration for Integrative Learning

Ped Day 2015This learning communities Ped Day session attracted more than 30 participants.  Lead presenters included Carl Saucier-Bouffard and Geoff Pearce, who spoke about their joint efforts to extend learning beyound the classroom.  They were joined by Anne Goodsell Love (Wagner College, NY) and Steve Henle (Concordia), who shared their experiences and insights regarding curricular learning communities at Wagner College and experiential learning at Concordia.

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October 8, 2015 – Wicked Problems and Integrative Learning

montreal-east-refineriesThe meeting of October 8 examined attempts by Dawson faculty to put wicked problems at the centre of course work, and also the obstacles to designing truly interdisciplinary and integrative learning experiences.  Carl Saucier-Bouffard and Geoffrey Pearce talked about a Reflections & Environmental Studies field trip to the oil refinery district in Montreal-Est.  Participating on this trip were students from Carl’s Humanities: World Views class, Geoff’s Advanced Topics in Environmental Studies; they were also joined by Jeff Barnes and Michael Duckett who pitched in on the teaching side of the trip.  The general objective was to give students an immediate experience of the local environmental and social impacts on Montreal-Est of oil refinery development.  Continue reading