National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2000


Published in the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 1:1, Spring/Summer 2000. Copyright © 2000 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life.
. .. Senge, The Fifth Disciple

When faculty and administrators confront challenges of student persistence rates, cross-disciplinary learning, faculty roles and rewards, student needs for professional and civic education, they often look for "solutions" through curricular innovation. Learning communities, although no longer a "new" response, continue to be initiated as a kind of "silver bullet" because they seem to offer a complex approach that can stimulate or promote a variety of transformations on a campus. Still, learning communities continue to occupy privileged space at colleges and universities. While programs such as Freshman Interest Groups (FIGS) find wide residence and application at large state universities, other types of learning communities that involve linking or clustering courses or that provide a full immersion experience for a student for a quarter, semester or even an entire academic year are relatively few in number on any particular campus. They often reside in special programs or focus on special student populations. In some ways, therefore, the acknowledged versatility of learning communities in a wider institutional setting is compromised by their particular location on that campus. Paradoxically, as the great popularity of the term "learning community" increases, the real sustainability of vigorously constructed learning communities is being challenged. Some faculty and administrators, rushing to get on board a late 20th century initiative, almost turned the idea into a fad, making the concept and its implementation so general, that it ceased to have much potency.