Description: Learning communities have emerged as an efficient and effective paradigm for improving undergraduate education, especially for entering freshmen. The academy has become increasingly interested in learning outcomes and student retention, especially as they are related to the assessment of various approaches to educating the whole student. Learning community pedagogy has developed through rigorous research. However, little is known about the impact of this pedagogy upon college students' cognitive development and writing aptitude. Cognitive development theory has been most significantly influenced by the work of William G. Perry, Jr. Though no theory exists which would address the stages of writing development in university students, many composition theorists suggest a correlation between cognitive development and writing aptitude. This study measured cognitive development and writing aptitude in learning community students and non-learning community students, matching them for SAT scores, high school grade point averages, gender, and ethnicity. The research questions of interest were: 1) How does participation in a learning community affect students' cognitive development; and 2) How does participation in a learning community affect students' writing aptitude? The participants were pre- and post-assessed for cognitive development, using the Measure of Intellectual Development (MID). Additionally, participants were preand post-assessed for writing aptitude, using a diagnostic essay and exit exam. Results of this study indicate no statistically significant differences in cognitive development and writing aptitude for learning community students and non-learning community students as measured by the Measure of Intellectual Development (MID) and the diagnostic essay and exit exam. These findings may have been influenced by the small sample size. It is suggested that this research be replicated, ensuring a larger sample size, to determine the efficacy of this pedagogy on these variable sets.
Date: August 2001
Creator: Barnard, Miriam K.