Windows on Learning: Resources for Basic Skills Education

Windows on Learning

As more students enter higher education unprepared, the need for powerful learning experiences has grown more urgent. The good news is that many faculty are trying new approaches and learning important lessons about how to help all students succeed. In support of these efforts, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has created multi-media tools that faculty can use to document their pedagogical work. This conceptual and practical toolkit was created by faculty participating in the Strengthening Pre-Collegiate Education in Community Colleges program who wish to share with colleagues some of the ideas, practices, tools, and materials that have worked for them.

What You Will Find in Windows on Learning

Concepts and Connections: Brief discussions of some new ways to approach the challenges and opportunities of teaching basic skills in community colleges.

Multi-Media Case Studies: Stories of teaching and faculty inquiry that rethink classroom practice through a focus on processes of learning, particularly those that foster long-term habits of learning as the essential core of basic skills instruction. You will find the case studies cross-listed under different headings (for example, English and Intentional Learning) to highlight different aspects of the projects.

Tools: Usable tools, approaches and methods of inquiry as set forth by community college teachers in their individual case studies.

On this site you can:

  • See how other teachers create powerful learning environments
  • Download teaching materials to adapt and use
  • Find tools for studying your students' experience as learners
  • Learn how faculty can work together to improve student learning

  • About the Site

    Questions & Contact: If you have a question or comment about the site, please contact

    Citation Information: To cite, please use the following information: "Windows on Learning." A Web-based collection developed in conjunction with "Strengthening Pre-Collegiate Education in Community Colleges," a project of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Stanford, CA: November 2007.

    To learn more about how to build a multi-media site of your own, visit the KEEP Toolkit website. The KEEP Toolkit is a project of the Knowledge Media Lab at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    Image by Adventure Addict @
    Image by Adventure Addict @

    Why Multi-media Sites?

    Making Learning Visible

    One of the biggest obstacles to the improvement of teaching and learning is invisibility.

    Much of what learners do as they try to understand a complex text, or solve a math problem, is hidden from us as teachers. Thus, we need ways to make their process visible. These might include think alouds, interviews, focus groups, and various classroom assessment techniques such as the one-minute paper.

    Similarly, teaching typically occurs behind doors that are both metaphorically and literally closed; as Lee Shulman says, teaching "disappears like dry ice at room temperature." Thus, we need to find ways to make what good teachers do visible and available to others. These might include video, teacher reflections, classroom materials, and analysis of student work, all of which can be found on the multi-media sites featured here.

    About SPECC

    Strengthening Pre-collegiate Education in Community Colleges (SPECC) is a partnership of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation. A multi-site action-research project, SPECC focuses on teaching and learning in pre-collegiate mathematics and English language arts courses at 11 California community colleges. These courses, which cover material often termed "developmental" or "basic," serve as prerequisites to transfer-level academic courses.

    On each campus, faculty members are exploring different approaches to classroom instruction, academic support, and faculty development. Their inquiry into the effects of these approaches engages a wide range of data, including examples of student work, classroom observations, and quantitative campus data. The ultimate goal of their investigations, and of SPECC as a whole, is to support student learning and success through a culture of inquiry and evidence.

    This website features work emerging from the Carnegie project.

    This electronic portfolio was created using the KEEP Toolkit™, developed at the
    Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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