Students' recollections of participating in a first year residential learning community experience

Catherine A Akens, Florida International University


The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain an understanding of what participation in a first year residential learning community meant to students 2–3 years after their involvement in the program. Various theories including environmental, student involvement, psychosocial and intellectual, were used as a framework for this case study. Each of the ten participants was a junior or senior level student at the time of the study, but had previously participated in a first year residential learning community at Florida International University. The researcher held two semi-structured interviews with each participant, and collected data sheets from each. ^ The narrative data produced from the interviews were transcribed, coded and analyzed to gain insights into the experiences and perspectives of the participants. Member checking was used after the interview process. A peer reviewer offered feedback during the data analysis. The resulting data was coded into categories, with a final selection of four themes and 15 sub-themes, which captured the essence of the participants' experiences. The four major themes included: (a) community, (b) involvement, (c) identity, and (d) academics. The community theme is used to describe how students perceived the environment to be. The involvement theme is used to describe the students' participation in campus life and their interaction with other members of the university community. The identity theme is used to describe the students' process of development, and the personal growth they underwent as a result of their experiences. The academics theme refers to the intellectual development of students and their interaction around academic issues. ^ The results of this study showed that the participants valued greatly their involvement in the First Year Residents Succeeding Together program (FYRST) and can articulate how it helped them succeed as students. In describing their experience, they most recall the sense of community that existed, the personal growth they experienced, the academic development process they went through, and their involvement, both with other people and with activities in their community. Recommendations are provided for practice and research, including several related to enhancing the academic culture, integrating faculty, utilizing peer influence and providing further opportunities to create a seamless learning environment. ^

Subject Area

Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Akens, Catherine A, "Students' recollections of participating in a first year residential learning community experience" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3031602.