Achieving the Dream 2012 Strategy Institute
The HealthscienceLC Advantage
Mary Puccini, MS, RD
Maria Straus, Ph.D
The who, what, where, when, why and
how of making a learning community
for those in the health sciences field.
Chancellor Innovation Fund Award (9/1/10 to 9/1/11)
used to develop LCs for students going into the health
sciences professions to prepare them for rigorous and
competitive 2 and 4-yr programs.
LC definition
• A group of students who are co-enrolled in two
or more courses linked by a common theme.
Attributes of an LC
• Increase retention—fewer withdrawals within
the semester and more students registering for
following semester
• Increase success/learning—more As, Bs, Cs
• Increase collaborative learning—more group
work—”class continues even after class”-Tinto
• Relate learning to real-world issues
• Connect concepts from different disciplines
Types of LCs
• Level One—students are co-enrolled
• Level Two—courses taught back-to-back, some
common content is stressed
• Level Three—instructors collaborate on
integrative assignments that pull from both
• Level Four—common syllabi aligning content,
joint projects cover an overarching theme
Where to start—several approaches
• What’s been done before either at your
institution or in the literature
• What courses do students historically take
• What are you personally interested in and/or
have found a partner to pair with
• What are the “curricular trouble spots”* that you
want to address
HCC students who were college-ready and interested in careers
in health science professions, emphasizing nursing, but not
restricted to nurses—no developmental courses included
HCC Central Campus with collaboration with Biology,
Chemistry, English, Philosophy, and Math departments
Fall 2010 used for faculty development training preparation,
LCs take place Spring and Fall of 2011
•Improve understanding of Anatomy and Physiology I, a gate
keeper course, for health sciences.
•Improve the pass rate for the HESI exam for acceptance into
the nursing program
•Give an advantage to HCC Students for program admission.
•Improve critical thinking/analysis skills to be successful in the
For faculty
We used one semester to:
• Attend a workshop given by Kingsborough
College trainers
• Decide which courses to pair
• Develop integrated assignments and LC theme
• Create a web site
• Advertise the new program
Courses Linked
• English Composition 1301/General Biology 1406
• Biology 1322 (Introductory Nutrition)/Introductory
Psychology 2301 (DE format)
• Math 1314 (College Algebra)/ General Chemistry
• English Composition 1302/ Philosophy (Bioethics)
• Biology 2401 (Anatomy and Physiology I)/
Psychology through the Lifespan 2314
• Biology 2402 (Anatomy and Physiology II)/ Biology
2420 (Microbiology)
Determining which courses to pair:
• Identify curricular trouble spots by asking:
What do students need to know deeply and be able
to do in order to handle unscripted situations in
their profession?
Emily Lardner, Evergreen College
Stumbling blocks
• In your discipline? An example—Anatomy and
Physiology I is the stumbling block for those in
biology or health science field
• In your course? The concept of homeostasis—
how the body tries to maintain equilibrium—is
the stumbling block for those within biology
Determine your LC theme
• You may want to use the curricular trouble spot
for the theme. For example: Homeostasis may be
presented as “The Great Balancing Act.”
• If possible, it’s nice to have a catchy title to pique
student interest in this new way of learning.
Developing the LCs continued
• Exchange SLOs
• Place textbooks side-by-side and go through the
content to identify areas for integration and for
areas that address curricular trouble spots
• Place syllabi side-by-side and see where material
can be shifted to match what is taught in paired
Real life experiences/
Problem based learning/InquiryBased Projects
Develop integrated assignments and their
grading rubrics.
• Does the assignment pass the “Scissor test”?
• Does it apply to real life experiences?
Examples of Real Life Experiences
• National Center for Case Studies Teaching in
Science (
• Math problems related to a construction project
• Chemistry problems related to household
• Grammar mistakes which change the meaning of
sentences. These can be found especially in
online newspaper or magazine articles.
• Health claims on food labels.
Real life experiences
• Include examples from newspapers, articles,
advertisements, food labels or products…issues
that require critical thinking that can be used for
classroom discussion.
• Build on the critical thinking skills you have
modeled in the classroom to have students do
group projects that require research and analysis
that is beyond the scope of what can be done in
the classroom.
Nutrition Text/Psychology Text/Topic/Integrated Assignment
Chapter 3: Digestion:
From Meals to
Chapter 5: Learning
Classical conditioning
and digestive function
Chapter 4:
Sugars, Starches, and
Chapter 13:
Personality Theory
and Assessment
Big Five personality
traits and health
Chapter 5: Lipids:
Fats, Phospholipids,
and Sterols
Chapter 14:
hypotheses that
involve dietary fats
Chapter 6: Proteins
and Amino Acids
Chapter 2: Biology
and Behavior
Proteins and
Developed by Denise Boyd, Ph.D
Your textbook describes the process through which the
pancreas becomes classically conditioned to respond to
sweet tastes. Use the internet to find other digestive
functions that are influenced by classical conditioning.
In what ways might classical conditioning contribute to
both good and poor dietary habits?
Your textbook notes a connection between
conscientiousness and obesity. Use the internet to find
other correlations between Big Five traits and health
outcomes. Propose an explanation for each correlation
you find.
Many books and websites tout omega-3 supplements as
effective for the treatment of depression. Use the internet
to research this claim. If you had depression, would you
take omega-3 supplements? Why or why not?
People with eating disorders such as anorexia and
bulimia often have deficiencies of the protein
tryptophan. Use the internet to find out about the
emotional consequences of this deficiency and how it
complicates the treatment of eating disorders. Because
of the complex physiology of eating disorders, many
experts recommend tube feeding or parenteral nutrition
to restore patients to normal physiological functioning so
that they will be emotionally capable of responding to
psychotherapy. Take a position for or against forced
feeding of people with eating disorders and explain your
Developing the LCs continued
• Develop some group projects that force
students to collaborate. Devote class time
for students to work on them.
• Provide for a communication vehicle
within the course—web-enhanced courses
have built-in email and discussion tools
To cement the learning that took
place in doing the projects, have
students give a presentation or
take a survey of the issue with
friends and neighbors. In this way,
they will have to explain the
project and its findings to others.
For students
Counseling and Advisors—
These are the people who can help fill your classes
▫ Give them the information and materials they
need to explain LCs to students
▫ Have them work with testing services to direct
students to advisors for degree plans/registration
▫ Use them in the classroom—intrusive counseling—
on the first day and throughout the semester.
Counselors could schedule a session when there
may be extra time during class (end of a lab
session for lab courses or after a test for lecture
Try everything!
• Create a web site using a “vanity” URL (example: that is easily
▫ Explain the program advantages
▫ Include courses linked, common themes, faculty
teaching, semester specific section numbers
▫ Include a video of the program, if possible
Advertising continued
• Make posters and place around campus
• Make student-developed (3’ X 4’) posters of
integrative assignments and place in hallways
• Have faculty teaching give “live commercials” in
the classes that feed into LC courses
Advertising Continued
• “Work” registration—hang out at the areas
where students are waiting to talk to counselors
and financial aid
• Have a video running as a continuous loop in
areas where students are waiting
• Do the Online Survey of Students' Experiences
of Learning in Learning Communities survey by
Skagit Valley (;
360-416-7919) that tracks with CCSSE data
• Consider integrative assignment—did it achieve
• Did students collaborate in and out of class
Debriefing at end of semester
• Meet with all LC faculty and allow time for
sharing of what worked and didn’t work
• Have pairs decide what to change—eliminate,
add or tweak—for next semester
If there is no formal faculty development time
allotted to this task, you could use the lunch time
of general meetings of your whole college. At
HCC , each college has a convocation twice
Conferences available
• Summer Institute of the Washington Center for
improving the quality of undergraduate
education (
• National Learning Communities Conference at
Harper College (
search for Learning Community conference)
• The Atlantic Center for Learning Communities
( )
Reward students in LC program
• If they successfully participate in three LCs, they
will get a note on their transcript.
• Have a recognition of achievement
lunch/dinner/ceremony for those who complete
an LC and recognize those who have completed

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