I’m excited to say that I’ll be teaching a learning community of first generation college students next semester. (That is, students whose parents did not attend college.) Most people don’t associate that demographic with educational disadvantage the way they do with low socioeconomic standing and racial minorities. In fact, first generation college students suffer on a variety of metrics, including dropout rates, grades, time to graduate, employment post-graduation, and obtaining graduate degrees.
At Purdue, learning communities are small groups of students who share some relevant characteristic. In addition to first generation college students, there are learning communities for student veterans, engineering majors, students from a particular language or ethnic background, etc. Students take three classes together, usually live in the same residence halls, and get additional out-of-classroom academic support services. I’ll be taking them on activities outside of the classroom myself, typically with some sort of academic purpose, but often enough just for social cohesion and fun.
The learning communities program has a great track record of getting better results for students. Additionally, participating fits my research interests perfectly. I worked with a somewhat similar program at my master’s institution, and I really enjoyed it. I’m excited for next fall.