The Student Life Skills and Reading Learning Community for Freshmen Retention was a successful and gratifying experience for all involved.
The comparison of retention rates was positive. The REA 0002 section of the Learning Community had a retention rate of 88% as compared to a rate of 84.7% in 2002/2 and an overall rate of 83.7% in 2003/2. Three students withdrew from the original group of 25 registered for the reading class. Student A was a “no show.” The SLS instructor contacted the student, met with her and advised her so she can be successful in her future academic endeavors. In addition, the faculty member followed up with the Associate Dean of Students. As a result of these efforts, the student received the appropriate guidance and assistance. Students B and C withdrew, after consultation with both faculty members. Student B had personal problems and a change in work schedule. Student C was an ACCESS student. Both instructors regularly informed the ACCESS advisors of the student’s difficulties in class. These were predominantly due to serious personal problems. ACCESS, the learning community faculty and the student were in agreement that the student should withdraw from the classes.
In addition to increased retention, all students in SLS 1535 scored higher in the posttest of the “Study Skills Survey” than in the pretest.
The spirit of the Learning Community proved to be a major positive force. The students suggested, planned and created a “learning community celebration” at the end of the semester. The enthusiasm was contagious and the administrators and other distinguished guests were able to see first-hand the camaraderie that grew out of this project. (See attached photos.)
The retention results for this project might have even been better had there not been some problems with registration at the very beginning. A lab time very late in the day was scheduled for the REA 002 class. As a result, enrollment was initially very low. When the lab time was changed, the class filled quickly. However, the instructors accepted several late enrollees. One of them was Student B, who ended up dropping the course. More careful screening of the candidates would probably result in an even higher retention rate.
It is interesting to note that four students who passed REA 0002 in the Learning Community chose to take REA 0003 with the same professor in the summer term, and two students who failed the final exam in REA 0002 (not due to lack of effort- but rather weak skills) are retaking it with the same professor during the fall term. It is evident that the Learning Community helps develop lasting bonds between students and professors beyond the Learning Community experience.
The effect of the Learning Community can probably best be expressed by the students themselves:
“I enjoyed how the programs were united together. I learned so much and both professors were helping us students to feel good and to prepare us for college life….I see myself in a positive way. I was so afraid coming back to school, but both professors make me feel secure and confident about my decisions.”
“To me, my SLS and reading class was a perfect idea because it helped me a lot in both classes together.”
“It was nice that our teachers knew of our progress and did activities to help out our weaknesses…It was great to meet friends that we had in two classes…to be in classes where our new friends could help each other in strengths and weaknesses in both classes and hang out on our own social time. I enjoyed the experience greatly!”
“Honestly, I felt that both teachers were amazing with dealing with things concerning work, time, etc. It was overall great. They both gave me the impression that we all (the students and teachers) were working together to get things done.”
“Having my SLS and REA 0002 together made me look forward to coming to class. I really learned a lot and the teachers made it easy in their way of preparation, how they are organized and their method of teaching the material. I really want to emphasize their organization and teaching methods because it really helped me get clued in on the material and the learning experience was great and productive.”
“I have really enjoyed the learning community. I’m 31 years old. When I thought about coming back to college I was so afraid. I thought I would not fit in and the class would be too hard. The learning community was WONDERFUL…..Thank you Miami Dade. My beginning was perfect so I know I will graduate.”