Background and Context
Who created the Learning Community?
The linked teaching experience began with an interim session called a January term course in which faculty are encouraged to teach different courses which can be more experiential. Steve Bachofer found himself passionately concerned, as an involved citizen, with what was going to happen with land, often contaminated, left by the military's closure of numerous bases in the San Francisco Bay Area. Steve came to Phylis, as the resident expert in sociology, to ask for reading material and ideas about his course. The next time she taught Urban Sociology he talked about these urban sites. A faculty group came together and began formulating how linked courses focusing on redevelopment could work on our campus (including History, Politics, Communications, etc.) Steve next became involved in SENCER (Science Education for a New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities) was inspired to develop a learning community to study these sites from the perspectives of physical and social sciences. In 2003, a full team attended the SENCER Summer Institute to formulate two different SENCER formatted learning experiences.
Where was the course taught?
Saint Mary's College of California is a Christian Brothers college, which was established in 1863. As noted in the College catalog:
"The College's reputation for excellence, innovation, and responsiveness in education comes from its heritage as a Catholic, Lasallian, Liberal Arts institution. This heritage creates a unique, personalized, student-centered learning environment.
The Catholic tradition fosters a Christian understanding of the whole person and defends the goodness, dignity, and freedom of each individual in a community that values diversity of perspective, background, and culture.
The Lasallian tradition, rooted in the Christian Brothers' commitment to teaching and learning, supports education that is truly transformative, not only for the individual but also for that person as a member of society at large.
The Liberal Arts tradition ensures that students develop habits of critical thinking, an understanding of and respect for different way s of knowing, and a desire for lifelong learning."
How does this learning community advance or engage institution-wide initiatives or objectives?
- Each course fulfills a requirement toward graduation, in either Science (Area B) or Social Science (Area C) as well as courses for specific majors.
- The courses connect to the main tenets of the college
- The Learning Community supports the integration of Social Justice issues into the curriculum and our effort was highlighted in the institution's WASC self-study
- The courses emphasized writing skills, research skills, and reading skills, which are stressed at SMC
- The courses utilized seminar discussions, a hallmark at SMC
- The courses pioneered the linked course pedagogy, which the college is now embracing
- The courses involved teaching across specific disciplines and colleges, which the college is encouraging.