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1 The Power of Student Voices: Revisiting the Freshman Learning Community Experience Nannette Commander AVP for Recruitment & Retention Carolyn Codamo.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Power of Student Voices: Revisiting the Freshman Learning Community Experience Nannette Commander AVP for Recruitment & Retention Carolyn Codamo."— Presentation transcript:

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

5 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 6 GPA 1 st term GPA significantly higher (p<.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 Outcomes of FLCs Collected quantitative data for 8 years that mirror national findings on the positive impact of FLCs

7 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 8 Investigated Influence of FLC Membership on: Student/Professor Connections Student Collaboration Engagement with University and the City Friendships

9 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 “’Get to know your professor’ was a buzz phrase.” “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.” “My FLC instructor always told us that it is better for the professor to know you. Helped encourage us into making sure we’re known in class.” “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.” 10

11 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 “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.” “Networking with other groups, that was important and I’ve kept that up. It broke down the barrier of working with people I didn’t 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 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 Student Collaboration

13 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 “At the time, I didn’t think the FLC helped me to become more familiar with GSU, but some of my friends who didn’t do a FLC, to this day, don’t know where stuff is.” “It did help me become acquainted to the University in a way I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t joined. It helped me familiarize myself with the campus. It’s so spread out and scattered.” “The FLC was a huge help getting to know the campus. The scavenger hunt seemed pointless at the time, but now I understand.” “It made me feel like I wanted to go to more activities. I probably wouldn’t have engaged in other activities if I hadn’t been in an FLC.” “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 Engagement with University/City

15 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 “I’m 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. It’s made us better friends today. We see each other say, ‘Do you remember the days in the FLC?’” “In my FLC everybody was close-knit. We were all going in the same direction and we’re 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.” “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 Friendships

17 17 Number of Respondents and Response Rates NSSE 2005 (Response rate: FY=25% and SR=26%) FLC Members First-Year Seniors - 32 Non-FLC Members First-Year Seniors – 784 NSSE 2007 (Response rate: FY=20% and SR=27%) FLC Members First-Year Seniors - 71 Non-FLC Members First-Year Seniors NSSE FLC Experimental Items Survey First-Year Seniors - 60 Survey of Recent Graduates - Fall 2006 through Fall 2007 (Average Response Rate = 52.2%) FLC Members Non-FLC Members

18 18 STUDENT/PROFESSOR CONNECTIONS Survey of Recent Graduates

19 19 STUDENT COLLABORATION

20 20 STUDENT ENGAGEMENT with UNIVERSITY Survey of Recent Graduates

21 21 STUDENT ENGAGEMENT with CITY

22 22 STUDENT FRIENDSHIPS

23 23 DIVERSITY Degree of competency: Get along with people of other racial/ethnic backgrounds Survey of Recent Graduates

24 24 NSSE FLC EXPERIMENTAL ITEMS Student/Professor Connections Student Engagement University Student Engagement City Student Friendships Student Collaboration Diversity

25 25 CONTACT INFORMATION Dr. Nannette Commander, AVP- Recruitment and Retention: Dr. Carolyn Codamo, Director Learning Communities: Dr. Teresa Ward, Research Associate, Institutional Research:


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