Do residential-only learning communities affect measures of first-year student success and faculty interaction
Baker, Andrew Robert
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The history of higher education presents us with many examples of small groups of students living, working, and even eating together in mutually beneficial ways. In recent years, institutions have employed a variety of learning community (LC) models, including residential, academic, and mixed models, to recreate these small groups and encourage positive outcomes for students. This quantitative study examined residential-only LCs at a medium-sized public institution. The study examined whether LC membership, gender, or academic major affected first-year, first time students on grade point average and frequency of faculty interaction during their first semester. Faculty interaction frequency was measured using an adapted 37 question instrument that employed a six-point Likert scale. Where possible, the results were examined within Vincent Tinto's Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure (1993). This study found non-statistically significant differences for the independent variables where LC students, females, and Biology majors demonstrated higher GPAs. Further, this study found statistically significant differences summarized as follows: 1. LC students speak less frequently to professors outside the classroom, 2. there is difference in the frequency of required work based on LC membership and major, 3. students in the Other STEM major group interact more frequently with professors regarding advisement and progress, and 4. students in the Biology major group report a number of differences in their interaction frequencies including class interactions with professors, work required of them, and classroom instructional methods. This study makes several recommendations for future research, including expanding the population to include: differently aged students, types of institutions, and different years of student experiences. It also recommends expansion to encompass more areas of Tinto's model.