Living Learning Environment Program Thesis

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Living-Learning Environment/Program

Livinglearning Environment/Program

"The more effort students put into their experiences, or the more involved or engaged students are with their college environments, the more likely they are to exhibit positive cognitive and affective development"

(Inkelas & Weisman, 2003, ¶ 5).

Millennials reportedly want what they want now. The majority of these youth, even those who plan to enroll in college, rarely read newspapers or books. In the presentation, "Continuing Trends and Long-Term Effects of Living Learning," Aaron M. Brower (2007), Professor & Vice Provost, University of Wisconsin (Madison), cites Richard Sweeny to assert that along with being impatient, millennials are goal oriented. Millennials "hate busy work, learn by doing, and are used to instant feedback…. They think it's cool to be smart. They have friends from different ethnic backgrounds. They want flexibility -- in their classrooms and in their lives" (Sweeny, as cited in Bower, ¶ 4). Sweeny purports that although some may not be "sold" on the value of LL, he is convinced the LL environment/program addresses questions and needs millennials currently express.

The livinglearning (LL) environment offers a venue to involve the millennial involved more in their pursuit of higher education; to better engage them in learning and make that learning last at the end of the day. In LLs or learning communities, part of an increasing trend on large college campuses, students enrolled in similar fields of study "live together on one or two dormitory floors. The idea is to create small intimate learning environments around the interests of students and make a huge university campus a bit more digestible" (Bower, 2007, ¶ 4). Marisa Helms (2003) interviewed a number of students regarding LL for the article "University of Minnesota students start fall classes." Most feedback Helms received proved to be positive. One student attending the University of Minnesota perceives LL to be an asset, with the potential to enhance his college career. This student chose the learning community because it offers additional benefits one could not obtain when living in regular dorms.

Educational psychologists argue that unless learning has personal meaning, it will not change the student's behavior. The converse, according to Brown, as cited in Brower, asserts: "…if we add an emotional dimension to learning, the learner will become personally involved, and as a consequence, there will be change in the learner's behavior" (2006, p. 8). Brower stresses that research confirms the value of personal involvement in learning and points out the following factors facilitating learning:

[One] learn[s] by doing- and by teaching others

Repetition is crucial

Emotions have to be engaged

Current students want to be engaged - and live in an "immediacy" culture (Bower, 2007, ¶ 9).

LL provides the perfect environment for implementing strategies that enhance personal involvement in learning. In the study, "Different by design: An examination of student outcomes among participants in three types of living-learning programs," Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, Assistant Professor of Counseling & Personnel Services, University of Maryland, College Park and Jennifer L. Weisman (2003), a doctoral student in Counseling & Personnel Services at University of Maryland, College Park, examine college environments and outcomes among different types of living-learning programs; comparing the participants with a control sample. These authors find: "The critical difference between living-learning programs and other types of learning communities is that the participants not only partake in coordinated curricular activities, but also live together in a specific residence hall where they are provided with academic programming and services" (Inkelas & Weisman, 2003, ¶ 3). Results from this study indicate that in college activities with stronger academic outcomes…, living-learning students exhibit higher levels of engagement. Figure 1 portrays the average retention rates for different teaching methods.

Figure 1: Learning Pyramid Average Retention Rates for Different Teaching Methods (adapted from Bower, 2007, ¶ 6).

In response to critiques that a dearth exists regarding integrated and focused student learning in undergraduate education at U.S., research universities, a number of institutions established learning communities, attempting to improve their undergraduate educational endeavors. Widely construed, learning communities connect learning opportunities, such as courses, co-curricular activities, interactions and conversations with faculty and peers, and/or special topics t help students assimilate and attain a better understanding of their knowledge. According to Inkelas and Weisman, Shapiro and Levine identified the following four major types of learning communities, that Figure 2 presents:

Figure 2: Major Types of Learning Communities (adapted from Inkelas & Weisman, 2003, ¶ 2).

In the book, Welcoming commuter students into living-learning programs, Richard a. Stevens Jr. (2000), personnel administrator at the University of Maryland, asserts that living-learning programs serve as tools four-year institutions may use to respond to the challenge of enriching undergraduate education. Stevens explains that even though programs vary in their struc-ture and what they offer, they typically "provide academic classes, a range of out? of-class activities, dining, faculty and staff offices, computer labs, lounges and recreational facilities all located in, or very close to, the residence halls where the student participants live" (Stevens Jr., p. 71). Grouping students in residence halls by academic discipline, research reveals, positively influences their academic achievement. The formation of subcommunities of stu-dents, faculty, and staff also increase the student's feeling that he/she is connected to the institution. Livinglearning centers also positively influence student retention, student involvement and the student's sense of community.

In the journal article, "The role of living-learning programs in students' perceptions of intellectual growth at three large universities," Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas (noted earlier), et al. (2006), investigate ways LL program participation affects the college student's intellectual growth. These authors argue that their multiple-campus study reveals that: "L/L programs affect students' intellectual growth differently at different institutions, and that the impact of L/L programs on students' perceptions of their cognitive growth is less influential than on their perceived growth in liberal learning" (Inkelas, et al., 2006, p. 115). This study did find, albeit, that LL program peer environments, as well as LL and perceptions did effectively promote the intellectual growth, particularly in liberal learning, for the participating students on the three campuses studied.

Inkelas andWeisman (2003), on the other hand, assert that findings from studies conducted at institutions, including universities in Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin, reported similar results confirming that students in residential learning communities would significantly more likely than students living in traditional residence halls:

Be more involved with campus activities and interact with instructors and peers

Show how greater gains in higher levels of intellectual development

Use campus resources, seek assistance from peers, faculty, and staff and to experience a more smooth transition to college; and to report their residence hall communities to be academically and socially supportive (Inkelas & Weisman, 2003, Review of Literature section, ¶ 5).

Reasons livinglearning programs positively influence student outcomes in the above areas may be inferred from the higher education literature, Inkelas and Weisman (2003) propose. One phenomenon reportedly distinguishes between students who benefit from the LL experience and those who do not experience positive benefits. Using various labels: "This phenomenon has been defined & #8230;[with] the concepts of involvement, integration engagement, and quality of effort; however, the premise remains similar: student outcomes are related to the amount of effort-both physical and emotional-that students put into their college experiences" (Inkelas & Weisman, 2003, ¶ 5). As Inkelas and Weisman state in the quote introducing this paper, when students invest more effort into their experiences, and/or become more involved or engaged students with/in their college environments, the more likely they will be to exhibit positive affective development and cognitive.

Susan D. Longerbeam, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University and William E. Sedlacek (2006), Assistant Director for the Counseling Center and the director of testing, research and data processing at the University of Maryland, examine attitudes towards diversity among college students participating in a civic type living-learning program in the study, "Attitudes toward diversity and living-learning outcomes among first and second-year college students," Longerbeam and Sedlacek found that students attitudes towards diversity remained constant during the study tenure and that in the construct of attitudes toward diversity, livinglearning students did not differ from a comparison sample of students. The authors recommend that no matter the setting/program, to provide the best learning experience for students, and to assess minute cumulative effects of diversity education, educators need to augment their understanding of diversity development.

Jim C. Eck, Hoyt Edge and Katherine Stephenson (2007) contend in the journal publication, "Investigating types of student engagement through living-learning communities: The perspective from Rollins college," research reveals that lack of aca-demic and social engagement contributes to students' at-trition. To address this concern, numerous colleges and universities experiment with various forms of living-learning communities/programs/environments to encourage positive student-college fit.

Penny a. Pasque, a graduate research assistant at the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good at the University of Michigan and Rena Murphy (2005), Coordinator of Research for University Housing at the University of Michigan, contend that the selection process in LL may influence the results/outcome of the LL experience. In… [END OF PREVIEW]

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