The impact of themed learning communities on academic performance and retention
Zientek, Rita M.
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Student retention has become an important issue for colleges and universities in America. Researchers suggest that an effective way to accomplish first year student integration is to provide an extended experience which combines academic integration with social integration. The learning communities program offered by the College provides such an experience. The purpose of this study was to measure the impact of themed learning communities on the academic performance and retention of first year students entering Buffalo State College in the fall of 2001, fall 2002, and fall 2003. These three cohorts were divided into two groups, those who participated in the learning communities program each semester and those who did not. Pre-college characteristics were determined for each group to ensure the participants and non-participants were similar. Academic performance was measured by the semester and cumulative grade point averages, and the percentage of students in good academic standing after their first semester. Retention was measured by the percentage of students returning to Buffalo State College for subsequent semesters. Analysis of variance and chi-square tests of independence were used to analyze the data. Results show that participating in the learning communities program had a significant impact on first-semester grade point average and academic standing for two of the three cohorts studied.