Another effect that the sense of community had on students was that they willingly helped each other academically throughout the course. This kind of relationship developed in the class because, through the use of student personal narrative, the students had gotten to know or see one another in a significant way:
When we know each other, it’s a lot easier to encourage each other. That’s important ... It’s not like we’re in school where, you know, you just do what you have to do. You’re adults and you’re sharing and helping and you’re doing all this and that makes it a lot easier…when you have friends (Semester-end taped class discussion, December 2004).
Knowing one another fostered the willingness to help one another. From an instructor’s point of view, the commitment that classmates felt for one another enhanced the richness of the learning that went on. Ideas were developed, discussed and shared outside of the formal instruction that went on in the class.
According to the students, the sharing of project and assignment ideas with each other was not something that they had experienced in other classes. They were able to do it in this class because of the community that had developed. Because they knew and trusted each other as individuals, they had formed a committed group:
I gave her the idea of doing a newsletter for the Life of Pi and I would have never, I don’t think, if I didn’t know her. I shared my idea and then she used it, so it was, you know, because I knew her (Semester-end taped class discussion, December 2004).
Prior to the class discussion that went on at the end of the semester, I was not aware of the academic assistance the students were giving one another. It is not something that I had formally structured in the class by way of study groups. They simply engaged in the creation and development of ideas together and were amazed at themselves for doing this. Knowing one another, in the personal way that sharing narratives had allowed, fostered this special learning environment. Another student talked about this sharing:
We were talking about “what are you going to do about the Life of Pi?” I mean, we swapped ideas and everything. You’re coming into a room full of strangers; you’re never going to do that. You know, you’re never going to go, ‘Heh, how about you do this, or heh, here’s some ideas.’ I would never do that (Semester-end taped class discussion, December 2004).
These students had taken classes before. They had spent an entire semester in the same class with other students before, but they found their willingness to help one another academically in this class to be a unique experience. It had to do with knowing or seeing one another and the community that was created as a consequence.