Book By: Jean Hensheid (Ed.)
Review By: Erik Oswald
Counseling and Career Development Center
Grand Valley State University
It is important to remember that theories guide our practice and allow us to legitimize why we, as advisors, do what we do (Evans, Forney, & Guido-DiBrito, 1998). Just as the use of theory can validate the development of certain programs, learning from the past experiences of others can be an effective way to build and structure future successful programs.
In Integrating the First-Year Experience, the contributors have described the different strategies and structures for implementing learning community systems on their respective campuses. Emphasis is placed on the use of seminar classes in the curricula; in their chapter Blalock, Harper and Piker explain why. “Students should experience authentic connections among courses…The seminar provides the energy and the space for integration” (p. 130).
One important element in each program description is the focus on the associated outcomes. Many charts, graphs, and tables are provided that illustrate how learning communities benefit student education and retention. Sample syllabi, assessment forms, and other materials are provided to aid in the development, creation and modification of future and existing learning community structures. The various roles of students, faculty and staff are also addressed by many of the contributors.
Another important outcome of this text is the recognition that learning communities offer a means for collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs (Barr et. al, 2000). Recently, Learning Reconsidered (2004) stressed the importance of collaborating to educate the whole student; learning communities are a good way of accomplishing this goal.
Part of the value of this book comes from the inclusion of contributions from a wide variety of institutional types and sizes. Programs from 14 different schools are included representing state universities, private universities, small colleges, and a community college. This inclusion makes the information applicable to most advising programs.
This is an essential addition to the resources available to advisors connected with the creation of learning communities at their institution. The descriptions and materials provided offer insights into the intricate details of many different programs. Current learning community administrators will appreciate the assessment information included as well as the hints for the improvement of existing programs. Advisors will find the ideas provided in this book will strengthen any future or existing learning community programs.
Barr, M.J.; Desler, M.K. & Associates (Eds.). (2000). The handbook of student affairs
administration (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college:
Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. (2004).
Washington, D.C.: ACPA and NASPA.
Integrating the First-Year Experience: The Role of First-Year Seminars in Learning Communities
(Monograph No. 39). (2004). Book by Hensheid, Jean (Ed.). Review by Erik Oswald. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. 225 pp. Price $35. ISBN #1-889271-47-0