This regular column highlights an institutional research (IR) study conducted by the staff of the Institutional Research and Planning office (IR&P) in each News Bytes issue. The goal is to inform more people about IR research so that more effective decisions can be made throughout the District.
Student Success in Learning Communities at De Anza College
This column features a study that examines the following question: Does the Learning Communities Program (known as “LinC,” Learning in Communities) at De Anza College, which integrates the curricula of several disciplines and relates them to real-life themes, improve student success?
“Research from other colleges indicates that students who are able to make connections in the curricula to real-life situations do better academically,” said Andrew LaManque, Ph.D., De Anza College researcher. “This research leads us to expect higher course success rates for LinC students than those in comparable non-LinC courses.”
Because this study was the first attempt to examine LinC, it only establishes a baseline of information. It does not attempt to account for differences in classroom teaching or grading, or differences in student motivation. The study’s goal is to determine whether student success rates (as measured by course grades) in LinC courses are higher than for similar courses.
LinC was established at De Anza in the fall of 1996. The program involves an interdisciplinary curriculum that traditionally would have been taught as two or more distinct courses. LinC courses are clustered around common themes and are taught collaboratively by more than one instructor. The program aims to improve student learning by highlighting the connections between disciplines and interesting topics, thereby strengthening students’ intellectual curiosity and experiences.
Participating in LinC is entirely voluntary for both faculty and students. Edwina Stoll, coordinator, LinC, and speech instructor; Marcos Cicerone, director, Staff and Organizational Development; and Marcy Betlach, coordinator, LinC, and ESL instructor, provide support for faculty who wish to teach in the program. They offer faculty members a program orientation and help them develop their curricula. In a typical quarter, more than 200 students participate in 10 to 15 LinC sections, grouped into five or six “Learning Communities.” Visit the LinC Web site for more information on how the program works.
First, the analysis shows that LinC courses achieved, on average, a higher success rate (percentage of students earning grades of A, B, C or P) than comparable courses (see Figure 1). Figure 1 shows that 81 percent of LinC course enrollments resulted in a passing grade, while 74 percent of grades in similar courses were successful. Grades of D are not considered to be successful completion for the purposes of this study.