22 SES 13 B, How Can We Enhance First-Year Students' Achievement and Persistence in Higher Education?
The transition to university is challenging since students have to adapt to the university requirements and to overcome socialization difficulties (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004). One of the issues in university education policy is how to support students in meeting the requirements. The University of Groningen (UoG) in the Netherlands implemented learning communities (LCs) for improving performance rates and the quality of education. In LCs a group of 12 students follow together all courses during the first semester. Tinto’s interactionalistic model (1993) and research suggest that LCs enhance engagement, motivation, and study success (Zhao & Kuh, 2004). However, most studies were conducted at campus universities or focused on voluntary participation (Buch & Spaulding, 2011). In Dutch university context, where students do not live at campus, LCs are formative and mandatory. This study investigates the role of LCs on engagement, motivation, and study success by means of longitudinal survey data. The dimensions of engagement and motivation were measured at three moments during the first year in 407 first-year social sciences students, who are participating in a formal LC or in a mentor group at UoG. In LCs students meet each other daily according to their schedule, whereas in the mentor groups students meet once a week. Motivation is measured as self-efficacy (α=.70; Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991) and since engagement is a multidimensional concept (Kahu, 2013), it is measured as affective (programme satisfaction; α=.82), behavioural (study behaviour; α=.77; peer interaction; α=.83; interaction with mentors, α=.75), and cognitive engagement (need for cognition; α=.84). Two research questions are addressed: (1) To what extent are different dimensions of engagement, motivation, and study success related in first-year students who are participating in LCs? (2) Do two types of small group teaching (LCs and mentor groups) have a differential effect on engagement, motivation, and study success? The preliminary results indicate that affective engagement is positively related with cognitive and behavioural engagement, and study success in the first semester, which is highly correlated with study success across the first year. Motivation is related to all dimensions of engagement. Zhao & Kuh (2004) showed that engagement can be enhanced by learning communities in the US. By performing multilevel structural equation modelling, the hierarchy in the data will be taken into account for getting a better understanding of the role of LCs compared to mentor groups during the first year in Dutch university context.
Buch, K., & Spaulding, S. (2011). The impact of a Psychology Learning Community on academic success, retention, and student learning outcomes. Teaching of Psychology, 38(2), 71-77. doi: 10.1177/0098628311401589 Christie, H., Munro, M., & Fisher, T. (2004). Leaving university early: exploring the differences between continuing and non‐continuing students. Studies in Higher Education, 29(5), 617-636, doi: 10.1080/0307507042000261580 Kahu, E. R. (2013). Framing engagement in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(5). 758-773. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2011.598505 Pintrich, P. R., Smith, D. A. F., Garcia, T., & McKeachie, W. J. (1991). A manual for the use of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). Ann Arbor, MI: National Centre for Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Zhao, C-M., & Kuh, G. D. (2004). Adding value: Learning communities and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 45(2), 116-138.
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