In 1998, our department turned to the pedagogical innovation termed “learning communities” in an effort to enhance student retention and to bring coherence and meaning to our first-year student curriculum. We have found that our learning community has provided an opportunity for agricultural engineering students to become involved in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) department from the moment they arrive on campus. Not only has the learning community helped us to increase our first-year, first time student retention in the major of Agricultural Engineering (AE) from 63.6% in 1997 to 79.0% in 2003 in the department (ABE) from 78.8% in 1997 to 89.5% in 2003, it has helped us to address many of our program objectives including students’ abilities to function on multi-disciplinary teams, communicate effectively, and have knowledge of important contemporary issues. Results of our assessment efforts, which encompass both quantitative and qualitative strategies, suggest that students are overwhelmingly satisfied with the program, are involved in our department, and are successful in their academic progress toward their engineering or technology degree.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/steven_mickelson/34/