Students' perceptions of their academics, relationships, and sense of belonging: Comparisons across residential learning communities
Author(s): Schussler, D. L., & Fierros, E. G.
Citation: Schussler, D. L., & Fierros, E. G. (2008). Students' perceptions of their academics, relationships, and sense of belonging: Comparisons across residential learning communities. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 20(1), 71-96.
This study examined how participation in one of four learning community models influenced first-year college students' perceptions of their academic environment, relationships with other members of the college community, and sense of belonging at the institution. The research was conducted at a private, mid-sized university and employed a mixed-methods design including a Likert-type survey administered to 1,517 first-year students, open-ended surveys administered to a subset of 119 first-year students, and interviews with five focus groups. Results revealed that students in the high-impact model were most likely to obtain academic support from their peers and to establish a strong sense of belonging to the university. However, no statistically significant differences were found related to students' social relationships or their relationships with professors. Findings from this study, then, simultaneously affirm the positive impact of combining residential living with a common course for helping first-year college students establish an academic support network and sense of connection to the institution but suggest that the level of intensity of the learning community model may have less of an impact on development of social networks and relationships with professors.