Instructional Schedules and Formats

Cohort Study Groups

The essential element of the study group (cohort) model is the recognition of distinction between the traditional aged (18 -22 year old) college student and the older learner who has assumed the adult responsibilities of self-determination, financial independence, and professional development. Attention is focused on two critical learning objectives. The first of these is shared participant responsibility for self-directed learning and small group dynamics. Professional and personal growth requires that individuals develop the skills necessary to manage their own learning. Throughout the program of study, participants are expected to seek answers to their questions, to identify and develop resources for their concerns, and to take charge of their own learning. For this reason, cohort programs are designed to provide the structure and support necessary to encourage independence and self-direction.

The second objective is to develop the interpersonal skills necessary for effective participation in study groups. The groups are comprised of three to five learners each and meet weekly outside of class. Study groups function as mutual support mechanisms through which learners can and do learn more efficient problem solving from the professional expertise of peers. Adult learners and faculty are acknowledged as major learning resources, through which individuals learn from one another through participation in the process of inquiry and involvement with the study group.

The use of the study group as a tool is enthusiastically supported by adult learners. Surveys indicate that the study group concept is extremely beneficial in assisting adult learners achieve predetermined learning outcomes. When adult learners accept the fact that they can learn from one another, a system of trust and support evolves, and the learning process becomes interactive

The study group concept is based on the premise that learning is not determined by a central source. The process of education encompasses the breadth of human experience. Working adults seldom have the time to devote to full-time, formal education. Through combining and sharing the talents, experiences, and learning resources of the group, adult learners assume a greater self-direction and responsibility for their learning. By sharing learning responsibilities, more information can be disseminated among the group members within a limited amount of individual effort. The study group members make the commitment to work together and assist each other in meeting the objectives and outcomes of the course and the program.

The adult curriculum is designed to focus on participative learning outcomes. Through the study group process, the learning process is enhanced because adult learners are provided with the opportunity to analyze their experiences and to compare and contrast these experiences with theories presented in the curriculum materials.

Study groups meet outside of the required class time to discuss and prepare assignments and to share learning resources. Each course generally requires a group project in the form of a written and/or oral report, usually presented to the class for discussion and critique. Group grades are awarded, so the ability to integrate each memberís total participation becomes the responsibility of all group members and is reflected in the grade.

Traditionally, the role of the student is relatively passive. The cohort model demands active participation by learners in their educational process, thus placing substantial responsibility on the learner. The dynamic process of study groups maximizes the individualís understanding and involvement in his or her degree program. In order to provide higher education programs to working adults, the study group and the cohort model have been developed and instituted to better serve the needs of these learners.

The faculty member should make sure that he/she and the adult learners fully understand the theory and con