Together we stand: exploring learning communities in trades programs
This study examined the effect of learning communities on the educational experiences of traditional and non-traditional students enrolled in trades programs at Vancouver Island University. Literature on learning communities suggests that enhancing cohort enrollment to strengthen social and academic bonds between students, instructors, and the institution can significantly improve the educational experiences of all students. A survey and a series of individual interviews was used to assess the extent to which learning communities existed in trades programs and what their effects were on students’ social and academic experiences. Participant responses revealed that learning communities do exist in varying forms from program to program and that many students felt these communities were beneficial. At the same time, there was evidence of a lack of cohesive policy when it came to using teaching strategies to enhance learning communities. There were also indications that a minority of students (15%) did not always feel included in these communities. For those students who did feel included, some expressed dissatisfaction with how group work was handled, and how non-participation and poor attitudes of some students affected the community as a whole. Suggestions for building learning communities within trades program cohorts are discussed including the use of Universal Design Principles, to create flexible and equitable learning, and the use of Indigenous talking circles to build community.