A case study of the experiences of field-dependent students in a community college learning community and the implications for curriculum
Consider the reality that the traditional college curriculum works against community college students -- think of the implications. It is no secret that community college students are the most disadvantaged in higher education, and their chances of succeeding in college are slim. Scholars have pondered this situation for years. Alas, consider if the problem is the structure of the curriculum itself. Specifically, research indicates that community college students tend to be field dependent and the traditional curriculum works against this type of student because it does not provide the type of community support these students require. One way the needs of these students could be met is through learning communities, which are conscious curricular structures that link two or more courses. This curricular tactic offers a way to fulfill the cognitive needs of community college students and enables them to succeed. To determine whether learning communities are an appropriate curricular tactic, the methodology of Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) was used to understand the experiences of field-dependent students. Through focus groups and individual interviews, this method helped to crystallize these common experiences and provide a voice for them. The results substantiated that learning communities provide the peer support, faculty interaction, academic involvement and collaborative learning environment field-dependent students need to succeed. Curricular tactics like learning communities can be utilized to meet the needs of community college students. Rather than employing the traditional curriculum, which works against community college students, curriculum needs to be tailored into applied models like learning communities, which work for them.