Relationships among learning community participation, student self-efficacy, confidence, outcome expectations, and commitment
This study brings together research on learning communities and student self-efficacy, confidence, outcome expectations, and commitment. Participation in learning communities has been proven to increase retention rates and success. Similarly, high levels of self-efficacy, confidence, and outcome expectations are correlated with increased retention rates and success. 356 students enrolled in the undeclared engineering orientation course were surveyed at the beginning of fall semester. Of these students, 130 completed a follow-up survey at the end of spring semester. About half of the students completing the initial survey were enrolled in a course-clustered Undeclared Engineering Learning Community, which was comprised of an orientation course, a math course, and a weekly peer-facilitated math session during fall semester. The students also met regularly with a peer mentor during fall semester. The survey measured math and science self-efficacy, general academic confidence, math and science outcome expectations, and commitment to engineering. Demographic and academic performance data were also collected from the Office of the Registrar.;Based on the surveys and demographic data, significant results include the following: (1) There was a difference between the students electing to participate in the learning community and those electing not to participate in the learning community, with those not participating having better academic preparation (as measured by ACT) and higher self-efficacy in their individual skills, (2) Students participating in the learning community were retained in engineering at higher rate, and (3) All students experienced a significant decline in self-efficacy and confidence from fall to spring semester; however, students retained in engineering experienced a significantly lower drop. Participation in this moderately integrated learning community did not have a significant effect on academic performance, self-efficacy, confidence, or outcome expectations. Recommendations as a result of this research include: (1) The need to re-evaluate the structure of the community in relation to math performance as measured by grade point averages, (2) A need to investigate why students elect to participate and the marketing of the learning community, and (3) Expansion to include qualitative measures, a longitudinal analysis, and additional types/structures of learning communities.