This project had as its goal to create a learning community linking HUM 1020 and ENC 1102. Students benefited greatly from being enrolled in two courses whose content and assignments were designed so that they could discover for themselves that a work of art, like an essay, is governed by innate principles that shape both its meaning and form.
A case in point was the first essay assignment, one that dovetailed HUM 1020’s knowledge base with ENC 1102’s writing skills. Students first viewed The Shooting Party in the classroom setting and then participated in a class discussion whose purpose was to deconstruct the film. This particular film was selected because it explores the social conflicts experienced during la belle époque, a period in history being scrutinized in HUM 1020. Students were then asked to write an essay focusing on the film’s themes and the means through which they were cinematically expressed. Although this was a very difficult, challenging assignment, students benefited from its concreteness and relevance. More importantly, they were able to make the connection between the relationship between meaning and form in both a work of art and an essay composition. It took several revisions before each student could complete this assignment. What we found was that the foundation had been laid for students to be better able to think and write conceptually as well as analytically.
Other assignments followed. Students had to choose two more films relevant to HUM 1020 course work to analyze. Furthermore, they each had to select a topic area studied in HUM 1020 and develop it into a research essay. We found that this exercise was very motivational because it gave students an excellent opportunity to further explore in more depth their specific areas of interest.
But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the learning community was students’ commitment to disseminating their knowledge base and new writing skills into the community-at-large. With missionary zeal, our students chose to go to the Miami Rescue Mission, Camillus House, and the Overtown YMCA to work with the less fortunate. With what they had already learned in the classroom, our students developed their own strategies to teach children about art, music, and poetry. Through their dedication and identification with these children, our students were not only able to reinforce for themselves what they had learned in the classroom setting but were also able to embrace others, discovering for themselves what it really means to be human.
In order to share with others what they learned in the classroom setting as well as what they taught in the community-at-large, our students designed a website that showcases their commitment to teaching/learning. The end result is concrete proof that indeed they established very strong bonds with the learning process, amongst themselves and with others.
Finally, our students also gained from their community orientation and participation by forming bonds of collegiality amongst themselves, resulting in peer study groups that enabled them to earn higher scores on their humanities exams as well as on their ENC 1102 research papers in comparison to grades in regular sections. Furthermore, the bonds developed went beyond the MDC environment. Students were very supportive when a classmate lost his brother and also attended a religious service conducted by one of the classmates who was being recognized for his leadership role within his church.
Formal tools of assessment were conducted at the end of the semester when students addressed questions about what they learned about themselves in the courses and the learning community as compared to being enrolled in a regular classroom setting. They also evaluated the personal, the academic, and the service/learning experiences.