Learning communities for university students at-risk of school failure: Can they make a difference?

Terri J Tharp, Tennessee State University

Abstract

This study investigated the impact of learning communities on the academic success of university students at-risk of academic failure. The effects of learning communities (LC) at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) on cumulative GPAs, retention rates, and earned cumulative hours of students with ACT sub-scores of 17 or 18 in math who were enrolled in the developmental studies program were evaluated. Year to year retention rates, year to year cumulative GPAs, and year to year earned cumulative hours were the variables used to measure academic success. The results of the study were used to determine if learning communities were an effective intervention for students at-risk of academic failure and therefore warranted additional funding and program development at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and other Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) institutions that have developmental studies programs. ^ The sample (N=261) was selected from MTSU's first time freshmen fall cohorts from fall 2004 and fall 2005. The sample was divided into three groups for each semester: group 1 - first time freshmen enrolled in the Intermediate Algebra/University Seminar learning communities (LC), group 2 - first time freshmen enrolled in traditional stand alone Intermediate Algebra and University Seminar classes (Non-LC), and group 3 - first time freshmen enrolled in University Seminar who were not required to take Intermediate Algebra, but had a Math ACT sub-score of 19 (REG). A matching procedure was used to control for gender, ethnicity and age. ^ The findings from this study did not support the implementation of a learning communities approach as an effective intervention to promote the academic success of university students at-risk of academic failure and enrolled in a developmental studies program. More comprehensive research is needed to determine what conditions and components are present in successful learning communities for developmental studies programs as well as exploring other approaches that might be more effective in promoting active learning for students at-risk of academic failure. ^

Subject Area

Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Terri J Tharp, "Learning communities for university students at-risk of school failure: Can they make a difference?" (2009). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3389640.
http://digitalscholarship.tnstate.edu/dissertations/AAI3389640

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