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Understanding freshman students' experiences living in a residential learning community: A single case study

Paulette D'vee Koester Buss, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to gain knowledge and better understand the academic and social experiences of selected freshman business students living in a residential hall learning community. The study took place spring semester, 2001, on the campus of a Midwest public land-grant 4-year higher education institution. ^ The study was guided by the theoretical framework of Astin (1985) and Tinto (1993) in the theories of student involvement and student departure. The review of literature included a historical look at learning communities, definitions, characteristics, purposes, and models. Also included were findings regarding academic experiences, retention, grade point averages, and social experiences of students who participated in learning communities. ^ A case study methodology was used. Data were collected through participant interviews with four female and two male students in the business residential learning community. All interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis of data was done through several levels of categorizing and coding information with the eventual identification of four themes: peer support (academic and social); transition to academic life, with sub-themes of motivational influence, expectations, and study protocol; out-of-classroom experiences; and personal development with self confidence and open minded as sub-themes. ^ The findings revealed that students participate in residential learning communities to meet people and make new friends. Participants indicated that they expected and received both academic and social support from their involvement in the learning community. This included taking classes, studying, and hanging out together. As students talked about transitions made to academic life, the professors' knowledge or expertise, personality, rapport with students, and method of classroom instruction influenced the students' motivational interest in classes and professors. ^ The freshman business students also talked about classroom expectations as it related to studying, grading, examinations, and the differences between high school and college. Participants became more self-confident and open minded as a result of their experience. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sociology of|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Buss, Paulette D'vee Koester, "Understanding freshman students' experiences living in a residential learning community: A single case study" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3059940.