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Research examines effects of FLEX

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Professor of Law Kevin Marshall discusses the results of complex-learning programs at the faculty lecture Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room. Marshall and his two colleagues presented the ways the University of La Verne community benefits from learning programs, such as FLEX, to encourage campus life engagements, participation and retention. / photo by Kathleen Arellano

Professor of Law Kevin Marshall discusses the results of complex-learning programs at the faculty lecture Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room. Marshall and his two colleagues presented the ways the University of La Verne community benefits from learning programs, such as FLEX, to encourage campus life engagements, participation and retention. / photo by Kathleen Arellano

Megan Sears
Staff Writer

Professor of Law Kevin Marshall, Assistant Professor of Sociology Joseph Cabrera and Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Weaver worked together to research how the learning community at the University of La Verne is affected by diversity and integration in FLEX classrooms.

They shared the research at their faculty lecture titled “Con­structing a Complex Learning Community Index: Operation­alizing the Concept of a Complex Learning Community Into Measurable Construct” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.

The researchers said the most interesting aspect about the FLEX program research was the cross opportunities of the interdisciplinary approach.

“It is a combined law, economic, socially, statistics biology, learning theory all coming together and provide an insight about life,” Marshall said.

Marshall explained the first hypothesis of the research, which states that a well-crafted learning community nurtures transcendent and transformational outcomes at the individual, group and institutional levels.

The proposed hypothesis was based on three dimensions: differentiation and diversity, integration and association, feedback and assessment loop and learning experience.

The construction of their “Complex Learning Com­munity” index will translate a nominal conceptualization into a measurable construct. They also wish to measure integration within a learning community.

Lastly, they will test the influence of the practices and provide another measure for assessment of the FLEX program, Marshall said.

“Building the index itself, it took months, but Joseph is a phenomenal statistician and we couldn’t have done it without him,” Weaver said.

Weaver then explained the overlap and the relevancy of the FLEX program complexities. There were 27 to 34 FLEX learning communities linked to different disciplines all brought together by a writing course.

Weaver said the use of high impact practices have proven beneficial for student engagement and successful learning from students from many backgrounds.

These practices in the FLEX program are seen through learning communities, common intellectual experiences and community engagement.

“I really appreciated their work and I think they are fantastic presenters,” sophomore environmental ethics major Erik Bahnson said. “I really do believe there is power in integrative experiences like FLEX offers.

Cabrera finished the lecture by going into the methods and results of their research. The complexity dimensions used were diversity and integration. Feedback loops was left out because it was too correlated with the integration variable.

The diversity variable questions asked included culture origin, gender, sexual orientation, siblings, and race. The integration variable questions included, community culture, culture of openness and integrations within learning spaces.

“I definitely have a better understanding of the FLEX program now. Now that I look back at my year in the program, I really enjoyed the community engagement days,” sophomore athletic training major Alena Koay said.

Cabrera went on to discuss the outcome variables, student’s overall experience and FLEX evaluations. He concluded that there was no relationship with diversity, but integration matters within each class and between each FLEX.

“Our No. 1 finding was that integration within the class and between classes in FLEX really does enhance students’ experience,” Weaver said.

The La Verne Academy lecture series continues with former professor Bill Neill’s “Thirty Years Filming La Verne: Bill Neill’s Video Archive” at noon Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.

Megan Sears can be reached at megan.sears@laverne.edu.

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