The effects of learning communities and pro-active advising on performance of first semester students

Tuesday, July 22, 2014: 9:30 AM
3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Scott L Schaake , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Andrea K. Sexten , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Teresa L. Douthit , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
David A Nichols , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Joann M. Kouba , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Daniel W. Moser , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Bryan W Schurle , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Mishelle R Hay McCammant , Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Abstract Text: Learning communities in higher education are not new, but they have received increased attention as universities look to enrich student learning .  The objective of this study was to determine if students are more engaged and perform better academically when in an environment designed to foster stronger relationships with faculty advisors, course instructors, and peer students.   First semester pre-veterinary freshmen at Kansas State University with ACT scores ranging from  21 to 28 (n=122) were assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups: 1) pro-active advising, learning community, and advisor as instructor; 2) learning community only; 3) pro-active advising only; 4) no intervention beyond standard advising.  Students who were pro-actively advised were requested to meet with their faculty advisors a minimum of 5 times.  Learning community students were enrolled in 4 common courses (8 credit hours).  Students were monitored for academic performance, attendance in courses and advisor meetings. Additionally, students were required to complete a survey at the end of their first semester.  Pro-actively advised students had a greater (P = 0.01) first semester Grade Point Average (GPA) than students who were not pro-actively advised.  Participation in the learning community alone or in addition to pro-active advising did not affect first semester GPA. Students whose faculty advisor was also one of their classroom instructors had a greater first semester GPA (P = 0.05) than students with an advisor they did not have as a classroom instructor.  Grades for the Principles of Animal Science course, enrollment n=147, were greater for students in treatment groups 1, 2, and 3 compared to students without intervention.  There were no differences in course attendance between treatment groups.  Treatment group 1 reported attending more (P < 0.0001) advisor meetings than students in treatment group 3. Treatment group 2 reported attending a similar number of advisor meetings to students in treatment group 4.  More friendships (P < 0.0001) among peers were reported among students in treatment group 1 than any of the other treatment groups. Engagement of students with faculty and their peers seems to be greater when students participated in both the learning community and pro-active advising compared to students who only engaged in one or none of these activities.  Increased engagement in the classroom and academic advising may be the reason for improved academic performance.

Keywords: learning community, pro-active advising, student performance