How engagement in curricular learning communities influences the baccalaureate degree attainment of career and technical students
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Learning communities at colleges and universities have gained popularity in recent years as a method to increase student persistence and completion. While there has been extensive quantitative research on the effectiveness of learning communities, the focus of this research has been primarily on the academic outcomes of four-year students. While research has begun to address the effectiveness of learning communities on two-year student persistence and completion, few researchers have addressed how engaging in learning communities influences the baccalaureate degree attainment of community college students, specifically, those majoring in career and technical fields. Thus, this study begins to address the need for research on institutional practices that may increase the four-year degree attainment of community college students. Three primary research questions guided this study: (1) How did engagement in a curricular learning community influence the baccalaureate degree attainment of community college career and technical graduates? (2) What specific aspects of a curricular learning community influenced graduates to complete a baccalaureate degree? (3) How did the identified aspects influence graduates’ decisions to pursue a baccalaureate degree? This study utilized a qualitative methodology with a case study design. Purposive sampling techniques were utilized to identify (1) the community college under study, and (2) the 15 career and technical graduates who participated in a curricular learning community and persisted to complete a baccalaureate degree. Participants indicated that engaging in a curricular learning community allowed them to experience high levels of student engagement, academic and social integration, and the ability to gain academic momentum, which influenced their decision to pursue a four-year degree.