Asee peer logo

Longitudinal Study Of Learning Communities In Agricultural And Biosystems Engineering

Download Paper |


2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Educational Trends in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.823.1 - 7.823.17



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Steven Mickelson

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2408

Longitudinal Study of Learning Communities in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Patricia C. Harms, Steven K. Mickelson, Thomas J. Brumm Texas Tech University, Iowa State University, Iowa State University


In 1998, our department turned to the pedagogical innovation termed “learning communities” in an effort to enhance student retention and to bring coherence and meaning to our first-year student curriculum. We have found that our learning community has provided an opportunity for agricultural engineering students to become involved in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) department from the moment they arrive on campus. Not only has the learning community helped us to increase our retention from 41.9% in 1998 to 95% in 2001, it has helped us to address many of our program objectives including students’ abilities to function on multi- disciplinary teams, communicate effectively, and have knowledge of important contemporary issues. Results of our assessment efforts, which encompass both quantitative and qualitative strategies, suggest that students are overwhelmingly satisfied with the program, are involved in our department, and are successful in their academic progress toward their engineering or technology degree.

A brief look at the literature

With a history that can be traced to an experimental educational program in the 1920s (the Meiklejohn Experimental College at the University of Washington), learning communities can now be found at four to five hundred colleges and universities across the nation. 1 According to Smith, “Learning communities are a broad structural innovation that can address a variety of issues from student retention to curriculum coherence, from faculty vitality to building a greater sense of community within our colleges.” Learning communities usually involve purposive groupings of students and coordinated scheduling. In addition, they may involve coordinated approaches to learning and an emphasis on connecting material across disciplinary boundaries. 2

As Tinto 3 points out, the learning community courses for which students co-register are not random; rather, “they are typically connected by an organizing theme, which gives meaning to their linkage. The point of the theme is to engender coherent interdisciplinary…learning that is not easily attainable through enrollment in unrelated, stand-alone courses” (p. 2). Despite the age of many learning community programs, Tinto reports that current perceptions of learning communities have been based largely on anecdotal evidence and institutional reports or assessments described at conferences or national meetings. Recently, however, a study was conducted for the National Center of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment that suggests learning communities impact student learning in several ways:

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

Main Menu

Mickelson, S. (2002, June), Longitudinal Study Of Learning Communities In Agricultural And Biosystems Engineering Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10395

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015