The University as a Community of Learning


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  • Title: The University as a Community of Learning: Perceptions of Students and Teachers in Three Settings
  • Author(s): Fern Willits, Mark Brennan
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: World Universities Forum
  • Journal Title: The Journal of the World Universities Forum
  • Keywords: Community of Learning, Ernest Boyer, Student/Faculty Perceptions, Campus Community
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2015
  • ISSN: 1835-2030 (Print)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Willits, Fern, and Mark Brennan. 2015. "The University as a Community of Learning: Perceptions of Students and Teachers in Three Settings." The Journal of the World Universities Forum 8 (3): 21-29. doi:10.18848/1835-2030/CGP/v08i03/59520.
  • Extent: 9 pages


More than two decades ago, Ernest Boyer, then President of the Carnegie Foundation, argued it was imperative that, if institutions of higher education were to fully meet their educational mandates, they must become Communities of Learning which were educationally purposeful, open, just, disciplined, caring, and celebrative. His ideas were widely embraced and institutions sought to emulate these principles. How do students and teachers perceive their campuses in regard to these attributes today? How do their responses differ depending upon the nature of the institutional setting? Comparison data obtained from online surveys of undergraduate students and teachers at Penn State carried out in 2011-2013 provided information for addressing these questions. A total of 1,837 students and 1,537 teachers at Penn State's "main” University Park campus, 1,566 students and 921 teachers at the University's nineteen smaller satellite campuses, and 644 students and 125 instructors in online degree programs through Penn State's World Campus participated in the surveys. Although some differences among locations and between students and instructors were found, most students and teachers in all three settings felt the descriptions of the six attributes of a Community of Learning "fit" their campuses.