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Freshmen LC’s Human Geography & Urban and Regional Planning and Spatial Planning and Design

Contact Person

Wouter Gaastra and Dion Glastra - learningcommunitiesfrw@rug.nl

Summary

The Faculty of Spatial Sciences trains geography, planning and demography specialists to become academics working in the field of policymaking processes (analysis, advice, scenarios) in spatial decision-making. Policymaking has a wide variety of perspectives (legal, administrative, economic, aesthetic), each of which come with their own cultures.

We want our graduates to be able to act as uniters, facilitators, negotiators, inspirers and mediators within complex and uncertain environments. Students need both subject knowledge and competences to be able to make valuable contributions to teams. To this end our learning outcomes increasingly reflect both these aspects: subject-specific knowledge, analytical skills, research skills, but also the ability to make assessments and work in teams.

This variety of learning outcomes is reflected in the course unit-level learning outcomes and the modes of instruction and assessment. The degree programmes taught at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences stand out from the crowd thanks to their combination of robust theory and hands-on translation into policymaking.

Although students are already thoroughly trained in teamwork skills through individual course units at the Faculty, thus far each semester starts with a clean slate, as the groups from the previous semester are discontinued and new teams are formed in new course units. We would now like to switch from the course unit-specific LCs that we currently use to cohort-specific ones.

We expect that linking a series of successive course units, in the sense that groups stay together for an entire year and undergo a cumulative learning experience, will boost students’ competences. The Bachelor’s degree programmes in particular have large cohorts (SG&P=110, TP=60), which follow some course units together (SG&P+TP=170), but not all. Learning Communities within these groups will create a valuable constant factor throughout all course units.

This will prevent ‘free rider’ behaviour and create a group identity – and thus a constructive, engaged learning culture among students. Cleverly integrating this with matching, tutor groups and mentor groups will result in a compact, effective structure.

We are therefore applying for funding to establish a continuous pathway, appoint a coordinator who will help the lecturers and students monitor continuity, and acquire the resources necessary to enable the LCs to shape their own structure and learning agenda.

Best Practices

Learning = Performance

Community = Academic community building

The Learning Communities are an integral part of the first year of the bachelors of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences.

Students who have finished their first year of Human Geography and Urban and Regional Planning or Spatial Planning and Design should have a clear view on what they have learned and why this is useful. This helps them in making crucial choices within their educational career (for example concerning the choice of courses or a master). Answers on important questions, like 'How does everything relates to each other?' and 'How to apply your knowledge in practice?', seem to be unclear for many students. That is why the FSS has established the Learning Communities.

A Learning Community is a group of 12-18 first year students which are put together to increase the involvement between students, but also between student and staff. A Learning Community aims to realize a good performance, to create cohesion within the programme, to stimulate the sense of community among students and to stimulate students to get in touch with the working field.

The Learning Communities undertake 3 activities during each subsemester of their first year at the FSS:

  1. Each semester there is a specific course in which a Learning Community-element is integrated. Attention is paid to cohesion with other courses, specific skills of the students or orientation on the working field. This type of activities is referred to as course-based activities.
  2. Each semester organizes or joins a Learning Community an activity that is not related to a specific course. This activity is not a part of the curriculum and can have a relation with spatial sciences or another academic field. These activities are called course-transcendent activities.
  3. At the end of each semester, all Learning Community members reflect on the cohesion of the above described activities. During the year, there is a competition for the best Learning Community and best three individual students participating in the Learning Community-concept.

All Learning Communities have the opportunity to decide on their own learning agenda by choosing a specific focus for their course-based or course-transcendent activities. The combination of the three activities make that students are prepared for choices which they need to make later in their academic or labour market career. Next to that, the Learning Communities contribute to enhance social cohesion with group members, which helps them to succeed the first year. To facilitate these processes, the FSS took a special Learning Community room with flexible workspaces into service since this academic year.

Last modified:16 March 2017 1.22 p.m.
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