Research & Practice Journal
From 2013 through 2021, the Washington Center published Learning Communities Research and Practice (LCRP), an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that provided a forum for higher education faculty, staff, researchers, administrators, and students to share current research, effective practices, critical reflections, and resources related to student learning communities in higher education. The purpose of LCRP is to promote practices and knowledge that would strengthen the learning community field.
The first issue of Learning Community Research and Practice was published during a time when there wasn’t a scholarly outlet focused on learning communities. For over nine years, the journal created a welcoming space for learning community practitioners to share their knowledge with the widest audience possible. It was with deep gratitude to these practitioners that the Washington Center retired the journal in the fall of 2021, freeing up more capacity to focus on other avenues for advancing learning communities.
The journal would not have been without the incredible dedication of Emily Lardner and Gillies Malnarich (Co-Founders and Editors), Janine Graziano and Gabrielle Kahn (Co-Editors), Lynn Dunlap (Copy Editor), Rachel Homchick (Copy Editor), and an amazing Peer Review Board. The Washington Center would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all those who have contributed their intellectual and creative labor throughout the years. And, of course, a very special thank you to all the authors who put in the time to share their work with a worldwide audience. Jack Mino, an editorial board member, summed it up when he described the journal as a community of practice. Together—journal writers and readers, along with editorial board members and reviewers—are “building a body of knowledge.” And, through the journal and the other ways we connect—the national conference, regional networks, curriculum planning retreats, the national summer institute on learning communities, and dialogue on the Learncom listserve—our community of practice continues to evolve and expand.
Over the course of nine years, the journal has reached individuals at 3,095 different institutions, across 170 different countries. Articles from the journal have been downloaded over 62,000 times and have been referenced over 1,500 times. It has provided an invaluable space for practitioners not only to share their work but also to stay connected with the work of learning communities happening around the country.
Learning Community Research and Practice Journal Archive
The articles in this issue illustrate the student-centered, innovative, and dedicated nature of our field.
Since the publication of our last issue, in the midst of a global pandemic, we have been forced to reenvision how we engage students in our learning communities. With time and space separating us in ways we have never before experienced, the articles in this issue all point to the need for us, in our practices, to remain steadfast in our view that individual students are empowered through their social activity. Although these articles describe work that took place before the new normal of our virtual world, we hope you are inspired to bring the understanding in these pieces of agency-through-community to your work, both now and in the future.
Residential learning communities or living-learning communities afford integration of and collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs. The articles in this special issue address unique elements and experiences in residential learning community programs.
Foundational to the learning community movement is a view of teaching and learning as a collaborative experience. The articles in this issue ask us to consider new ways we might understand and enact collaboration in our learning community research and practice.
From the design of learning community programs to the creation of learning community assignments, being intentional—understanding who our students are and staying focused on their needs and goals—is how we do learning communities well.
Engagement and community stand in dialectical relationship to each other: As engaged learning community practitioners, we build community--in our learning communities and through our scholarship-- that fosters engagement among our students and our colleagues.
With these newest contributions in research, practices from the field, and perspectives, this issue marks five years of publication of the journal, Learning Communities Research Practice and the goal that it would extend the important work of informing practice and enfranchising knowledge-making by practitioners and researchers in the field.
Our contributors continue to demonstrate how learning communities, in their multiple variations, constitute a substantive intervention into the classroom, challenging students to engage more deeply and effectively in their learning. What emerges in this collection of articles is the strong sense that people who teach in learning communities understand that setting the stage for deep and transformative learning requires skillfully connecting how students learn with what they are learning. The articles in this issue demonstrate how learning community faculty make good use of the freedom afforded by various curricular structures to create rich learning opportunities for students. What’s more, teachers in learning communities grasp the value of approaching the classroom as master learners, whose responsibilities can sometimes extend to sharing their work in this journal.
What we know about learning communities today as whole is based upon the multitude of experiences we have with our students and our colleagues on our varying campuses. The gift offered by the conception of inquiry as stance is an opportunity to embrace a dialectical approach, rooted in what Cochran-Smith and Lytle describe as our “deep and passionately enacted responsibility to students’ learning and life chances and to transforming the policies and structures that limit students’ access to these opportunities” (p. 279). As colleagues drawn together by our shared commitment to constantly find more effective ways to support all our students’ learning and their life chances through this thing we call learning communities, let’s use this journal to deepen our collective work in service of our democratic agenda.
As a set, these five articles represent a rich portrait of our evolving field. From the National Learning Communities conference to practices in the field, we continue to improve our teaching and learning.
The authors in this issue demonstrate how learning communities, and their constituent high impact practices, positively affect student experiences and, further, how these practices inform an ethos of equity in the classroom—and beyond. At the heart of learning communities is a culture of inquiry, supported by research, practices from the field, and reflections, all of which contribute to the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Contributions in research, practices from the field, perspectives, and a book review, all enhance our community focus on teaching and learning.
The contributions to this issue strongly suggest that we need an armamentarium of techniques to narrate the impacts of learning communities— impacts that are complicated by the irrepressible messiness and unpredictability of social phenomena, the stuff that often exists in the interstices of content or that lies outside what’s statistically significant.
The articles in this issue do build the body of knowledge about student learning communities. Two of the three research articles focus on first-year learning communities. For their article, “Against the Odds: The Impact of the Key Communities at Colorado State University on Retention and Graduation for Historically Underrepresented Students,” Tae Nosaka, a learning communities coordinator, and Heather Novak, an institutional researcher, worked together to measure the educational effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the program’s intervention measures. They use propensity score matching in their analysis to address the issue of how an institution can effectively assess learning communities for specific cohorts in which students are not randomly assigned.
What we know about students’ experiences in learning communities is a question addressed in both research articles in this issue. This issue’s Practices from the Field explore two strategies for using learning communities to engage students in learning about science and the natural world. The two Perspectives represent two ends of a spectrum. In “Put Me In Coach! Making the Academic Learning Community an Option for Student Athletes,” Geoffrey P. Mamerow (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Kristina M. Navarro (University of Oklahoma-Norman) urge readers to create learning communities that support the academic success of student-athletes, arguing that, to date, the field has not done enough in this regard.
This issue of LCRP promises to be one which prompts conversations, further inquiry, and readers’ responses. Articles in this issue address the far-reaching impacts of storms on the academic performance of students, the galvanizing effects of community, and what happens when students are invited to become co-teachers.
Our hope, for this issue and future issues, is to provide a platform for faculty, student affairs professionals, and administrators to discuss their experiences in creating and sustaining learning communities that improve the quality of students’ educational experiences. The work of helping students achieve their goals is messy and complicated, and this journal provides a forum for us to discuss that reality. By sharing our work with each other, we can build our field, strengthening practices across institutions.
This January 2013 issue of LCRP showcases articles have been selected from past issues of the now defunct Journal of Learning Communities Research (2006-2010), a collaborative project started by Kennesaw State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. We thought this compilation would be a fitting way to make some of the early learning community scholarship more accessible and to honor the work of the journal’s co-editors: Rebecca Casey, Barbara Jackson, Keisha Hoerrner, and Frank Ross.
If you are searching for a specific article and you do not know what volume it is in, you can search the whole journal archive here.