Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. John Thelin

Abstract

This study examines how community was created in a community college FYE 105 Achieving Academic Success course and the impact of classroom community on students’ perceptions of transition and persistence. Community colleges increasingly are focusing on student success as measured by persistence and goal completion such as transfer or attainment of credentials. The classroom learning environment is critical to student success but is a neglected area in retention research. Therefore, it is important to expand the research on initiatives that support students in their quest for success and educational goal completion.

This research focused on one course section of FYE 105 taught at a community college; the students and the professor of the class are the participants for the study. New insight and understanding into classroom sense of community was gained through classroom participant-observations throughout the duration of a semester (16 weeks), faculty and student interviews, and review of materials related to the course. The data generated from the study were analyzed using thematic analysis. In order to explore how community is constructed and the role it plays for students, McMillan and Chavis’s sense of community theory and the academic communities component of Braxton, Hirschy, and McClendon’s conceptual model of student departure in commuter colleges and universities were used as the theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the study.

Study results reveal that the professor concentrated efforts during the first class sessions on communicating the classroom rules, engaging in active learning, establishing emotional safety and belonging, and facilitating student interdependence, which were critical elements in establishing a sense of community in the classroom. Additionally, the findings show that students perceive the professor, classmates, classroom environment, active learning, and course content as components that contribute to a sense of community that impact their transition. Students were less clear of the role that sense of community played in their college persistence. Findings suggest that faculty would benefit from professional development to enhance their pedagogical skills. Suggestions for future research include a focus on students’ external and campus support systems,electronic technology, classroom diversity, and longitudinal and departure data collection.

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