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Journal cover: Quality Assurance in Education

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Online from: 1993

Subject Area: Education

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Learning communities and the quest for quality

Document Information:
Title:Learning communities and the quest for quality
Author(s):Barbara Leigh Smith, (The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, USA), Jean MacGregor, (The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, USA)
Citation:Barbara Leigh Smith, Jean MacGregor, (2009) "Learning communities and the quest for quality", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 17 Iss: 2, pp.118 - 139
Keywords:Higher education, Learning, Quality improvement, United States of America
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/09684880910951354 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – In the USA, as elsewhere, there is an ongoing need to improve quality in higher education. Quality improvement models from business have not been widely embraced, and many other approaches to accountability seem to induce minimal compliance. This paper aims to contend that learning communities represent a viable alternative in the quest for quality. By restructuring the curriculum and promoting creative collaboration, learning communities have become a major reform effort in US colleges.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides an overview of learning community theory and core practices and four original case studies of institutions that have made learning communities a long-term focus of their quality improvement efforts.

Findings – Findings include: effective learning communities are clearly positioned, aimed at large arenas and issues and are central to the organization's mission; learner-centered leadership is a key component of effective programs; learning communities offer a high leverage point for pursuing quality; effective learning communities meet faculty where they are; successful initiatives create new organizational structures, roles and processes; successful programs attract and reward competent people and build arenas for learning from one another; and successful programs have a living mission and a lived educational philosophy reaching constantly toward more effective practices.

Originality/value – Educators will draw rich lessons from this concise overview of learning community theory and practice and the story of these successful institutions.

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