The relation between a student's choice of living arrangement and student effort, achievement and college satisfaction

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Garrard, Douglas Charles

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Calls for reform in higher education that focus on institutional characteristics which impede effective teaching and learning, such as a fragmented and specialized curriculum, a lack of clarity of goals, and the need to integrate the in- and out-of-class experience, have been well documented in the literature. Under the premise that learning can be best realized with purposeful and connected in- and out-of-class learning environments, living-learning communities are a popular option on many of our nation’s campuses. The benefits of conventional residence hall living have been well established in the literature. A growing body of research supports that living-learning communities offer the promise of a wholly integrated campus environment, suggesting academic achievement can be influenced by an environment that mutually supports academic, interpersonal and extracurricular activities. This study used quantitative and qualitative methods to examine in depth the association between a student’s place of residence and various learning outcomes. Data for this study included self-reported levels of effort, achievement and satisfaction as measured by the College Student Experiences Questionnaire, institutional data on college grade point average and enrollment, and qualitative interviews. This study focused on “within-college” effects, or the relationship between student experiences at the same institution and student outcomes. This study found that place of residence had no relationship with a student’s level of satisfaction or self-reported academic and social gains. Place of residence had a limited association with student scores on personal and interpersonal level of effort scales. Active learning, student-faculty interaction and cooperation among students, referred to as “good educational practices,” were found to be significant predictors of academic and social gains. Additionally, participation in the living-learning community was also found to be associated with higher odds of being retained in college. With limited exceptions, student background characteristics did not have a significant affiliation with student success. This finding is consistent with C. Robert Pace’s (1984) notion that what a student does at college is more important than what they did before they entered college. Overall, the results suggest that the university is providing an environment that promotes student success regardless of place of residence.