Academic Learning Communities

What is the Truth In Society section of the Aquinas Program? Some people would call it an Academic Learning Community. This is an environment where everyone- in groups, independently, through writing, through oral discussions- is working for a common purpose. Is a 'community' of thirty-six students who are working for a common purpose and using the knowledge from each other to further their understanding.

If I am having problems with an assignment or I need help with one I have numerous sources who can help me. And on those frustrating days when I feel like giving up there is a support group that sometimes shares my feelings or know what I am going through to lend moral support.

The program focuses on a lot of group work. This is a very important foundation for the community building.

I have meant 35 new people in the program and doing so I not only have new friends but some of then have become to be very close friends who I go out with socially and care share personal secrets with.

It allows people who are pursuing the same interests to come together and brainstorm ideas and questions. Then together they will attempt to find the answers.

We work in the classroom most of the day, and at lunch we go together and talk about anything and everything. School work might come up during the conversation and often this is when our most productive stuff happens.

Working in groups has produced major benefits. At first it was difficult because those involved needed to get used to one another. However, after this initial settling in, people were comfortable and ready to work. That initial timidness disintegrated, and ideas, opinions, beliefs, and questions began to emerge out of a newly formed self-confidence and respect.

From laying out the program in this manner; it allows each individual to gain the very important idea of respect. Because everyone becomes such a close knit "family", automatically respect comes into play. This aspect of the program is one of great importance. We all need respect for ourselves; others and the work we do; the Aquinas Program will give you that.

Group work involved collections of four to thirteen students, pursuing one main theme, e.g. Jonestown, and attacking the questions from many different perspectives. This included oral discussions, inkshedding (writing down our progress, feelings etc.) , or the actually putting together the final result and conclusion.

As I think back I can recall many times when I was thinking " hey, I hadn't thought of that before " or " I didn't realize that someone else felt that way to. " Being able to openly express how everyone is feeling is a major advantage of taking this course. I was, on several occasions, able to express how I felt through ink-shedding or in oral discussion.(admittedly mostly through ink-shedding)

The result of this learning community was increased confidence in public speaking, and in one's ideas.

This will give you the chance to develop comfort in speaking in front of groups. Communication is an important tool in the Aquinas program. Sharing ideas or giving positive criticism to help make the program better is valuable to each others learning.

Combined with the ability to research a topic accurately,

we all "bonded" in the library by helping each other find books and in the computer labs with, obviously, the computers.

and the opening up of the mind to other concepts and opinions.

Now, especially since we are working in focus groups I am finding that people are handling these varying opinions much better and are able to listen non-judgmentally as well as being able to apply someone else's beliefs to their own and as a result opening them-selves up to a much broader out look on how they could come to decide on a truth for themselves. . . .

This is not to say that there are no disadvantages to the program. There is no perfect institution. Beginning this program was tense as people were trying to get used to thirty-six new people and a new way of learning.

Sometimes people working with other people can get so frustrated that certain students just want to quit.

At first I felt that people were misunderstanding the points that I was trying to get across and were judging me because of it. I now realize that everyone was just eager to get their opinions out in the open and that no one really knew how to respond to so many varying opinions.

However, experience showed, that with time, most students realized how to receive the benefits of such an innovation, and supported fully this "revolutionized" way of learning.

I realize that I need others to help me through my learning. I also realized that although I may have a specific opinion of my own at the very moment does not mean that it won't change as I learn something new about it.

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