Mark Lewine - Passion Statement

Outstanding Community Colleges Professor of the Year National Winner
Mark Lewine
Professor of Anthropology
Cuyahoga Community College

My professional contributions continue to be motivated by a belief in the creative potential of our open-door community colleges. I strongly value the contribution of the community college movement to our society as it offers people with limited opportunities a unique vehicle for educational and social mobility.

The extreme diversity of community college students demands much of faculty. Few professors survive long without gaining knowledge of alternative learning processes and teaching strategies for the wide variety of needs presented by each class. Study in the field of education then becomes as necessary for effective teaching in the community colleges as staying current in the content of one's own subject area. My applied research in learning theory and practice yielded a number of principles that helped me create innovative and effective techniques:

  • Learners gain most from active learning with maximum time on tasks
  • Barriers to learning complex tasks are most effectively removed when the learning process is broken down into incremental tasks that can be mastered by most learners
  • Use of small group dynamics in a planned learning process with peer tutors and mentors increases the depth of learning and sense of learner satisfaction in the classroom environment
  • Benjamin Bloom's mastery learning principles yield the best results in a process with timely faculty intervention and feedback, followed by corrective practice by the learner.

By applying these principles, I have improved my students' learning behaviors. I also passed on these ideas to six former students who became effective college faculty by applying them to their own teaching strategies and methods.

My colleagues tell me that my most notable professional contribution has been the creation of programs that include community-linked education and research within our rather limited two-year college curricula. These programs provide research opportunities for students left out of higher-level academic work. Our greatest success is achieved with student researchers who become interns on our projects, then peer mentors for other students, and then eventually apply their learning toward high-level achievement in graduate school. They become our role models for new students.

Our major vehicle for community-linked research has been the creation of the Center for Community Research. The CCR has been published by the American Anthropological Association as a national model and replicated by members of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges. For the past 12 years, the CCR has given more than 2,000 students their first opportunity to participate in primary research activities in the field and in the lab. As the field settings are in the urban communities in which they live, students are encouraged not only to do research but also to connect academic research to their neighborhoods and communities. Students acquire an in-depth understanding of life patterns and how research and academic concepts apply to the lives of people like themselves.

A network of community colleges, each implementing a democratic mission fulfilled by curricula involving communitylinked student research, is my continuing vision. During this period of conservative values and limited support for higher education, great persistence is required. The needs of our urban student populations are greater than ever. Research opportunities must be made available for community college students as they provide the impetus for greater student mobility and later success. I will use this award to help gain support for this important initiative.