Community college student success courses : an examination of faculty-student engagement and students' experiences with sense of belonging
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Community colleges provide opportunities to those students who did not choose the traditional path of higher education. There is a high number of undergraduate minorities and first-generation college students in the greater population due to open access policies and flexible academic program options at community colleges (Juszkiewicz, 2015). With a diverse student body and academic backgrounds, some students may or may not need developmental education. Within some developmental education programs, these students may be required to take student success courses (SSC). This is just one of the many strategies to improve retention and persistence rates among first-time-in-college (FTIC) students. First year experience programs which include first year-seminars, SSC, advising, and other learning experiences, are linked to positive outcomes for first year students (Muraskin and Wilner, 2004; Upcraft, Gardner and Barefoot, 2005). There is a body of literature that indicates an association between participation in an SSC and a range of positive academic outcomes (Schnell & Doetkott, 2003; Boudreau & Kromney, 1994). In addition to student participating in SSC, Barnett (2011) conducted a study on community college students’ experiences with validation, which predicted the students’ sense of integration, and the students’ intent to persist. Students who experienced higher levels of faculty validation were more likely to feel a sense of integration and/or belonging in the college. Thus, faculty validation modestly predicted students' intent to persist. Although there is extensive research on nonacademic factors about engagement, such as student relationships and sense of belonging (Blackhurst et.al., 2003; Barnett, 2011; Strayhorn, 2012), less is known about the experiences of faculty-student engagement and how that relates to students’ sense of belonging inside an SSC in a community college setting. The purpose of this study is to examine faculty- student engagement within SSC and the students’ experience with sense of belonging. The researcher conducted a qualitative study framed by the Validation Theory (Rendon, 1994). The findings from this study recognizing that: (1) lecture and listening is the primary form of engagement inside the SSC course at Melba Rose College; support comes in the form of caring and validation and; (2) personal and academic connections allowed students to create and enhance sense of belonging to the institution and also allow for utilizing academic skills in other courses. Additional findings unveiled that college resources are essential and enhance the students’ college experience for students that are required to take skill building (developmental/remedial) courses.