Date of Conferral

1-1-2009

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Education

Advisor

Ken Kempner

Abstract

This descriptive case study explored the perceptions of former community college first year learning community participants on aspects of their learning community experience that affected their persistence in college using Astin's student involvement theory and Tinto's student persistence model as a conceptual framework. Learning communities have been shown to increase student persistence, but little is known about how they do so. A better understanding of how learning communities contribute to increased student persistence would improve learning community practice and gain administrative support for learning communities. This study used a mixed methods research design utilizing both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data were collected from interviews with former participants and analyzed by identifying emergent themes within the responses. Quantitative data were collected by querying the studied institution's data warehouse and analyzed to determine if they matched the predicted pattern of increased persistence and confirmed the interview data themes. Three themes emerged from the qualitative data: connecting with others, acquiring and applying knowledge and skills, and making the transition to college. The quantitative data revealed higher rates of persistence for learning community students than for a comparison group. These findings confirmed the predicted pattern of student involvement leading to persistence. Further research is needed to explore other factors that may explain how learning communities impact persistence, especially in community colleges. The study contributes to positive social change by providing support for learning communities to help students persist in achieving a college education, attain their goals, and become more productive members of society.