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Friends for School Purposes: Learning Communities and their Role in Building Community at a Large Urban University

An analysis of the Learning Communities program at Temple University in Philadelphia, launched in 1993 with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The program was created with the aim of improving the experiences of first-semester freshmen by fostering a sense of community, helping students connect with peers, deepening student-faculty interactions, and creating interdisciplinary links. This report is based on in-depth examination of three Learning Communities in different undergraduate schools. The researchers shadowed students, conducted focus groups, and interviewed faculty and administrators, finding that the program worked towards accomplishing its goals but needed improvement. Discussions of the implications of findings are followed by recommendations including: increasing group work and experimenting further with Freshman Seminars; addressing the needs of commuter students; providing ongoing faculty development; and facilitating ways for professors to network about teaching in Learning Communities.