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Chapter 6.1 Transforming the First Year Experience through Learning Communities

Institutional Transformation to Engage a Diverse Student Body

ISBN: 978-0-85724-903-6, eISBN: 978-0-85724-904-3

Publication date: 28 June 2011


Purpose – Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) developed learning communities incorporating a first year seminar to serve all entering students in their first semesters of university study to increase student academic achievement and persistence.

Methodology/approach – The first year seminars are taught by an instructional team of faculty member, academic advisor, student mentor, and librarian. There is an instructional template for the more than 150 sections of the seminar taught each fall across – academic units rather than a common syllabus. The seminar is often coupled with writing, communication, psychology, or other general education course with students in a cohort group learning together across courses.

Findings – Program evaluation results consistently show a 9% positive impact on retention when comparing student outcomes for participants vs. nonparticipants, controlling for background characteristics.

Research limitations/implications – This structured approach serving nearly all entering students as a required course reinforces the importance of mandating interventions on a large scale, in a context of planning and improvement.

Practical implications – The institution developed the program over 20 years, and revisions to the program have been based on program evaluation. Careful attention to experiences before the learning communities (orientation programs in the summer and bridge programs just before the beginning of the academic year) and after the learning communities when the students move to their second semesters of study is critical.

Social implications – Approximately half the students in the learning communities are first generation college students and approximately half are low income students. This intervention has been central to the university's context of widening participation in higher education.



Evenbeck, S.E. and Ross, F.E. (2011), "Chapter 6.1 Transforming the First Year Experience through Learning Communities", Thomas, L. and Tight, M. (Ed.) Institutional Transformation to Engage a Diverse Student Body (International Perspectives on Higher Education Research, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 213-223.



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