Synergy is the national peer-reviewed online journal of the Association for the Coaching & Tutoring Profession published annually in the fall and spring. The primary mission of the journal is to provide an avenue for scholarship and discussion, which furthers the knowledge of learning processes, tutoring practice, and the administration of tutoring services.
Modeling Synthesis: Developing Learning Communities that Enhance Academic Success Jim Valkenburg, Delta College

Learning Communities are not new to education. With a broad spectrum of information, from history to pedagogical theory to current neurological research as the foundation, this article explores what may be considered the “best promise/best practice” for developing learning communities. Essentially, learning communities that are developed in a coordinated, coherent fashion can closely relate content from two or more classes, and show that information from diverse courses can be synthesized and used creatively and critically. Learning communities offer the opportunity to help students better understand the interrelationship between all learning endeavors and to use that revelation in developing positive learning behaviors.

If developed properly, learning communities offer a strong foundation for the critical and creative thinking skills students will need to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing world. The conjunction of course materials, presented as a collective, organized unit can exemplify the synthesis that is expected from students as they expand their educational horizons. It is the author’s contention that it is the responsibility of the instructors of all the courses presented as a learning community to model precisely those “higher order” thinking skills they hope students will develop.

Social Competence and Students with Mild Disabilities: Can the necessary skills be taught and applied? Cora M. Dzubak, Ph.D., Penn State – York

Social competence is most often described in terms of the skills and behaviors needed to successfully perform in a variety of social situations. Voytecki (2010) describes social competence as the ability to initiate, respond to, and maintain interactions and positive relationships with others. Gutstein and Whitney (2002) offer a definition that focuses on meaningful and “emotion based relationships” (p. 161). Gresham. F., Mai, B., and Cook, C. (2006) note that social competence represents judgments about the behavior and messages of others. The specific skills and behaviors associated with social competency include those within not only the social domain, but also within the emotional, affective, cognitive, and even physical domains. It is a logical to think that these ordinary skills are intuitive, but if they are not, that they can be taught, learned, and appropriately applied. However, it is often the case that despite special attention and programming, students with mild disabilities still lack the skills to perform optimally in the classroom, in the community, with their peers, and even within their family constellation. Without social competence, one does not have the same experiences and opportunities in life as others. This article will present some of the reasons why individuals with mild disabilities struggle to acquire, maintain, and consistently perform the skills needed to become socially competent.
Against the Grain: An Argument for Using Less Technology in Education
Jim Valkenburg, Delta College

While technology allows us to find information about any subject, it also has had a somewhat negative impact on learning. Recent neurobiological research suggests that the brain is a dynamic, constantly changing organ that responds to the type of stimuli that it encounters in its environment. Media has a tremendous impact on how we perceive information, so the technology used to impart that information has a tremendous impact on brain function. The way people read, or don’t read, for that matter, has changed with the resultant inability of people to deep process information because they do not deep read, nor deeply process, what they are researching. The technophiles say that there is no need to remember anything since all that information is online, but without information in our brains there is no way to synthesize, create or think critically.

The Cognition Gap: Sufficient Skills for High School but not Sufficient for College
Dr. Cora M. Dzubak- Penn State – York

Information is not knowledge, Einstein. On most college campuses faculty frequently express concerns about the lack of student academic preparedness. There are complaints that new students are increasingly less well prepared for the rigors of college level work. They seem to have more difficulty solving problems in math, writing literate college compositions, and even studying effectively. Of equal concern is their inexperience with critical thinking, independent decision making, and application of what was learned. Too many students begin college underprepared but there is a combination of reasons for their lack of prerequisite learning skills. “Underprepared” describes a diverse group that varies with ability, educational background, income, culture, and life experience. It is risky to make broad generalizations about these students even though they share similar academic characteristics. We need to ask relevant questions that allow us to understand the reasons why so many new students are not adequately prepared for college level work, and especially the need to demonstrate independent and effective critical thinking skills. Once we better understand the etiology of under preparedness, we will be able to address the most significant aspect of the issue: a gap between the cognitive skills needed in high school and those expected at college. We will begin by first identifying the specific characteristics that distinguish underprepared students from more successful first semester students. Second, we need to understand whether under preparedness is a reflection of lack of ability, lowered high school standards, cultural influences, an increased focus on standardized testing, or some other yet unrecognized factors. Third, we will identify what measures can be taken to address the problems faced by these students in the college classroom. It is necessary to minimize the initial impact of under preparedness on their learning and their ability to be academically successful while providing them with the opportunity to acquire the needed skills. This chapter will address the significant changes in academic standards during the last decade as well as the role that socioeconomic status plays in contributing to the problem of underprepared students. The cognitive gap is a gap in thinking skills that many students experience as they begin their college work even though they might have been very successful while in high school. There are multiple causes for this problem. The solutions to the problem will require multiple strategies.