Community and the college classroom: an exploration of teacher, student, and classroom variables



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Currently, many colleges and universities are embracing learning communities as a way of addressing the problems of student retention and academic achievement (Chesebro, Green, Mino, Snider, & Venable, 1999).   Current research on learning communities indicates that students who participate in a learning community have greater motivation, strategy use, involvement, interactions with other students and with faculty, and academic achievement than those students who are not part of a learning community (Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, & Smith, 1992; Tinto and Goodsell, 1993; Tinto, 1997; Heller, 1998; Chesebro, Green, Mino, Snider, & Venable, 1999; Pike, 1999; Stefanau & Salisbury‐Glennon, 2002).   The primary definition of a learning community used in past research is one that exists outside the classroom setting.  There has not been sufficient empirical research on a community of learners inside the classroom.  This study was designed to understand teacher, classroom, and students variables that play a part in classroom community.    The course that was examined in the present study, EDP 310: Individual Learning Skills, meets the criteria for a learning community, in that it contains a small number of students (maximum of 28), promotes active and collaborative learning and knowledge construction, enables students to interact with other students as well as the instructors of the course, ties in different areas of study, and enables instructors to work together to plan and implement classroom activities that promote meaningful learning.  Both quantitative instruments and qualitative examination was used.  The results showed that students’ satisfaction with their teacher was the biggest predictor of classroom community measured at mid‐semester and that it was the combination of teacher (students’ satisfaction with the teacher), classroom (students’ satisfaction with the course) and student (motivation) variables that was the biggest predictor of classroom community measured at the end of the semester.  Overall, the instructor had the most significant impact on classroom community.