The impact of Freshman Year Learning Community Participation on Students' Self-reportedacademic self-efficacy, sense or meaning in life and commitment to academic major at the beginning of the second acae
Type of Degreedissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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Student retention is one of the most studied areas in higher education. Much of the focus has been on providing services to aid in retention efforts from the first to the second academic year. Freshman seminar classes as well as learning community programs have become common on college campuses to provide students with the resources and support to help retain them to the next academic year. However, little research has looked at the impact of learning community participation related to the sophomore slump. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact freshman year learning community participation on students’ self reported academic self-efficacy, sense of meaning in life, and commitment to academic major at the beginning of their second academic year. The conceptual framework used for this study was Chickering’s (1969) Theory of Identity Development. Two groups of students were administered portions of the Sophomore Experiences Survey (Schreiner, 2007) at the beginning of their second academic year to assess sense of meaning in life, academic self-efficacy, and commitment to academic major. The first group was a treatment group consisting of students that participated in a learning community during the 2009-2010 academic year. The second was a control group consisting of students that did not participate in a learning community during the 2009-2010 academic year but independently completed a freshman seminar course during the academic year. A number of independent samples t-tests were conducted to look for differences between the learning community participants and the freshman seminar participants in regard to academic self-efficacy, sense of meaning in life, and commitment to academic major. The analysis showed that there was no significant difference between the two groups for each of the measures. However, analysis showed that learning community participants that identified as very sure of academic major had significantly higher academic self-efficacy scores than learning community students that did not indicate being very sure of academic major. In addition, an analysis was conducted on individual questions and found that learning community participants had significantly higher scores for “I know what makes my life meaningful”. Also, participants in both groups had significantly higher sense of meaning in life scores when they self identified as being very sure of academic major. However, there was no significant difference in commitment to major between the learning community participants and the freshman seminar participants.