News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

For Immediate Release (02-13)
Date: March 28, 2002 
Contact: Dave Willingham, 240-567-7970; Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

National Initiative Includes Montgomery College-Takoma Park 20-School Effort Will Push Innovative Approaches to Learning

Its work with an increasingly popular educational innovation called "Learning Communities" has landed the Takoma Park campus of Montgomery College a prestigious spot among the nation’s elite. MC-Takoma Park has been chosen, along with 19 other colleges and universities, to take part in a National Learning Communities Project, which is aimed at strengthening innovative approaches to education.

For the past year, MC-Takoma Park has been experimenting with learning communities, initiatives that enroll groups of students in pairs or clusters of classes, which often are organized around interdisciplinary themes. Eighty to 100 Takoma Park students are currently involved in the cutting-edge program.

One of those, freshman Chen Ding of McLean, Virginia, says she is taking her second semester of learning community study. "The community part of the formula is a main strength," says Ding. "Students get to know each other and support each other more than in regular classes. It has helped me to learn more and that is what we’re here for."

Dr. Clarence A. Porter, Montgomery College vice president and Takoma Park provost, says the campus is developing a Learning Communities Pilot Program comprising more new strategies to enhance learning. Dr. Porter and a six-person team from the Takoma Park campus were selected for the top 20 through a competitive application process to participate in a residential learning communities institute at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, this June.

At the five-day institute, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the educators will develop ways to build or strengthen their learning community initiatives on campus.

Hundreds of undergraduate campuses have created curricular learning communities, approaches that purposely restructure the curriculum to thematically link courses and enroll a common group of students.

According to the website http://learningcommons.evergreen.edu, empirical studies have shown that Learning Communities:

  • Increase student engagement and motivation.
  • Increase course completion rates, especially on commuter campuses like Montgomery College.
  • Foster increased intellectual development.

The website reports the communities are especially effective in developmental courses.

Dr. Porter says he is excited about the learning communities concept, as well as this summer’s institute. "Our expectations are that we will be able to increase retention and academically improve students," he says. "Clearly, this is a direction in which to go."

Takoma Park is one of three primary Montgomery College campuses. It serves more than 4,000 of the college’s population of 20,000 plus students in credit programs.

The smallest of the three campuses, it is about to embark on a major expansion.

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