Learning Communities integrate theory, practice, and civic engagement

Learning Communities integrate theory, practice, and civic engagement

Wagner College’s strategic plan (approved October 2011) states in part, “We are dedicated to a model of personalized education that integrates the singular field based learning opportunities of New York City into the breadth and depth of the liberal arts, the sciences and professional studies. At Wagner, theory and practice are joined to form the practical liberal arts for all students.” The first of the four key strategic objectives is:

A) Deepen The Wagner Plan, with particular emphasis on the following:

    • Enhanced classroom experience from the core to all learning communities with the goal of improving learning outcomes
    • Expanded civic engagement and experiential learning
    • Expanded emphasis on global education

Consistent themes throughout this and former strategic plans are a commitment to integrating theoretical and applied learning - especially civic engagement in its many forms, and emphasizing effective communication and  problem solving. These commitments align with the following General Education goals:

  • competence in the skills of listening, speaking, and writing, to promote effective communication and self-expression
  • critical thinking skills that enable students to analyze information and develop approaches that are new to them and lead to a better understanding of their world;
  • competency in "learning by doing" where ideas and field-based experiences are related, reflected in writing and discussion, and applied in ways that improve their world

These goals are assessed by way of a combination of in-house and commercial surveys, and direct assessment of student work. Surveys of students in the First-Year Program and Senior Learning Communities are conducted annually. Questions that are pertinent to the outcomes are listed below, along with the results from Fall 2013 (average scores, answers ranged from 1=strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree). The scores indicate a high level of agreement with each statement, and in seven of the eight statements the scores of seniors show stronger agreement than the scores of the first-year students. This is evidence of the considerable extent of integration of theoretical and applied learning in the curriculum, and the focus on “learning by doing.” In addition these results speak to the consistency of integration and civic engagement across the curriculum from first to senior year.

First-years (N=326) Seniors (N=113)
The Reflective Tutorial (RFT) course syllabus outlined the objectives of the Experiential Learning (off-campus component) in relation to the course objectives 2.0 1.9
I had the opportunity to periodically discuss my Experiential Learning and its relationship to the course content 2.1 2.1
I felt a personal responsibility to meet the needs of the Experiential Learning site for this course 2.1 1.7
Because of the Experiential Learning, I became more aware that there are different approaches to, and solutions for, every problem 2.1 1.8
The Experiential Learning  I did for my RFT:
Helped me to see how the subject matter I learned can be used in everyday life 2.2 1.9
Helped me to become aware of my personal strengths and weaknesses 2.3 1.8
Benefited the community 2.5 2.2
Helped me to develop problem solving skills 2.5 1.9

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