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The Power of Student Voices: Revisiting the Freshman Learning Community Experience

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Title: The Power of Student Voices: Revisiting the Freshman Learning Community Experience


1
The Power of Student Voices Revisiting the
Freshman Learning Community Experience
  • Nannette Commander
  • AVP for Recruitment Retention
  • Carolyn Codamo
  • Director, Freshmen Learning Communities
  • Teresa Ward
  • Research Associate, Institutional Research
  • Georgia State University

2
What Prompted Creation of the Learning Community
Program in 1999?
  • RESEARCH UNIVERSITY 27,000 students 30
    graduate, diverse, urban (in the heart of
    Atlanta), 2,500 beds
  • GOAL Produce an undergraduate student body
    reflective of a top 100 research
    university/become more student friendly
  • RAPID GROWTH 5,000 students since 1998
  • CHANGE IN STUDENT POPULATION sharp increase in
    entrance requirements when Georgia State
    designated a research university in 1995, became
    much more traditional with respect to student
    population
  • OTHER CHALLENGES low retention, graduation
    rates, and performance on NSSE

3
Freshmen Learning Communities (FLCs)
  • OVERVIEW 25 students take five courses together
    centered around a theme (Cluster Model)
  • THEMES VARY Pre-med, Law and Society, Internet
    and the Information Age, Quantitative Sciences,
    Strategic Thinking and Learning
  • FLC COURSES General Education Core Courses that
    apply to any major Linked curses and
    Integration of the curriculum
  • ANCHOR COURSE IN EACH FLC GSU 1010 New Student
    Orientation Course (70 Academic Theme, 30
    Orientation Topics)
  • GSU 1010 INSTRUCTORS 60 Taught By Tenure-Track
    and Senior Faculty Members of the University

4
Growth of FLCs
  • FLC started Fall 1999 11 communities 295
    students (16 of freshmen class)
  • Fall, 2007 55 communities 1, 375 students
    (54 of freshmen class)

5
Recognition of FLC Program
  • Cited by US News World Report for last six
    years as a model program that leads to academic
    success
  • Recipient of the Best Practices 2005 Competition
    sponsored by the Board of Regents of the
    University System of Georgia in the category of
    Academic Affairs

6
  • Outcomes of FLCs
  • Collected quantitative data for 8 years that
    mirror national findings on the positive impact
    of FLCs
  • GPA
  • 1st term GPA significantly higher (plt.001)
  • Cumulative GPA usually higher even after 2 years
  • Retention
  • Greater Freshmen to Sophomore retention (7-8)
    for FLC cohort
  • Significantly greater retention (6-8) 2-4 years
    out
  • Progress towards graduation
  • More hours earned per semester
  • Graduation rates
  • 4 year graduation rate 3.3 higher

7
Where is the Student Perspective?
  • Conducted the focus groups in order to bring life
    to student experiences and perspectives on
    Learning Communities
  • Purpose of focus groups is to feature and hear
    the voices of students

8
Investigated Influence of FLC Membership on
  • Student/Professor Connections
  • Student Collaboration
  • Engagement with University and the City
  • Friendships

9
Student/Professor Connections
  • Most participants indicated one of most important
    outcomes of FLC experience
  • Noted that professors encouraged them to reach
    out to other professors
  • Some former FLC members are still in contact with
    their FLC professors

10
Student/Professor Connections
My FLC instructor always told us that it is
better for the professor to know you. Helped
encourage us into making sure were known in
class.
My GSU 1010 teacher stressed be visible so
that the professor could put a name with the
face. The thing about teachers your first
semester is that they sort of lay a foundation.
They were understanding, caring, nurturing.
The FLC really helped me. Our professor bought
us pizza every week. It was cool. He brought
other faculty in and introduced us to people we
should know. It helped me get a student assistant
job.
Get to know your professor was a buzz phrase.
10
11
Student Collaboration
  • All focus group participants cited ability to
    collaborate with other students as a significant
    aspect of the FLC experience
  • Collaboration enhanced study skills and
    contributed to networking ability

12
Student Collaboration
Networking with other groups, that was important
and Ive kept that up. It broke down the barrier
of working with people I didnt know.
It helped me study better because I had people
with different study habits better than mine, and
I adapted those study habits to do better on
tests.
It enhanced our study skills. One of the girls
became my best friend. We developed study groups
together. And even though we have different
majors, we still come back and tell each other
what we learned.
it gave you a group of people to go to class
with and we studied together.
We helped each other develop the study skills I
can utilize today.
12
13
Engagement with University/City
  • Majority of participants believed membership in
    FLC offered opportunity to learn the university
  • Participants believed they were more
    knowledgeable than non-FLC students about the
    University and resources available to them

14
Engagement with University/City
It did help me become acquainted to the
University in a way I wouldnt have if I hadnt
joined. It helped me familiarize myself with the
campus. Its so spread out and scattered.
It made me feel like I wanted to go to more
activities. I probably wouldnt have engaged in
other activities if I hadnt been in an FLC.
The FLC was a huge help getting to know the
campus. The scavenger hunt seemed pointless at
the time, but now I understand.
At the time, I didnt think the FLC helped me to
become more familiar with GSU, but some of my
friends who didnt do a FLC, to this day, dont
know where stuff is.
The FLC definitely helped me to become more
familiar with GSU and Atlanta. In my GSU 1010, we
took a small tour of Atlanta, the Rialto, CNN
Center, Centennial Park. It made the city more
intimate and less intimidating.
14
15
Friendships
  • Cohort structure one of the most important
    components of the FLC program
  • Relationships established in FLC helped with
    developing more social skills, having more
    academic support and feeling more comfortable
    with university and urban environment
  • For most, friendships developed as FLC members
    endured throughout their university career

16
Friendships
In my FLC everybody was close-knit. We were all
going in the same direction and were taking
classes together now. For the most part, we keep
in contact.
I had a permanent study-buddy for two years. It
was a real comfort knowing that I had a person I
could study with. We still have a strong
relationship, even after the semester.
Im still good friends with people in my group.
We were able to go to class together and hang out
outside of class. That made it easier to build
relationships. Its made us better friends today.
We see each other say, Do you remember the days
in the FLC?
I still talk to many of the people in my FLC. We
talk in class and ask if they want to study.
I still stay in contact with everyone I was
close to in my FLC.
16
17
Number of Respondents and Response Rates
  • NSSE 2005 (Response rate FY25 and SR26)
  • FLC Members
  • First-Year - 133
  • Seniors - 32
  • Non-FLC Members
  • First-Year - 236
  • Seniors 784
  • NSSE 2007 (Response rate FY20 and SR27)
  • FLC Members
  • First-Year - 234
  • Seniors - 71
  • Non-FLC Members
  • First-Year - 225
  • Seniors - 586
  • 2007 NSSE FLC Experimental Items Survey
  • First-Year - 174
  • Seniors - 60

18
STUDENT/PROFESSOR CONNECTIONS

Survey of Recent Graduates
19
STUDENT COLLABORATION
20
STUDENT ENGAGEMENT with UNIVERSITY
Survey of Recent Graduates
21
STUDENT ENGAGEMENT with CITY
22
STUDENT FRIENDSHIPS
23
DIVERSITY
Survey of Recent Graduates
Degree of competency Get along with people of
other racial/ethnic backgrounds
24
NSSE FLC EXPERIMENTAL ITEMS
Student/Professor Connections
Student Engagement University
Student Collaboration
Student Engagement City
Student Friendships
Diversity
25
CONTACT INFORMATION
  • Dr. Nannette Commander, AVP- Recruitment and
    Retention ncommander_at_gsu.edu
  • Dr. Carolyn Codamo, Director Learning
    Communities ccodamo_at_gsu.edu
  • Dr. Teresa Ward, Research Associate,
    Institutional Research tward_at_gsu.edu
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