An analysis of outcomes associated with student participation in living -learning communities at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of student participation in the Special Interest Residential Program (SIRP) living-learning communities at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
This study involves a secondary data analysis of administrative data collected by SARIS, the Office for Academic Planning and Assessment, and the Department of Residence Life at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Data from the Fall Semester 2000 Residential Academic Programs survey and the Spring Semester 2002 Special Interest Residential Program survey are discussed. However, further analysis was conducted only on the latter data set.
The Residential Academic Program survey included 809 students who were enrolled in either the RAP, TAP or Honors living-learning community program at that time. The response rate was 59% (n = 477). The Special Interest Residential Program survey included all 363 students who were involved in the SIRP living-learning programs, and 379 resident students. The response rate for sample students in a SIRP living-learning community was 84% (n = 305).
Three broad research questions were posed in this study. The first found twenty-five positive outcomes associated with participation in all living-learning communities at the university. Three negative outcomes also were found. The second question found that participants in the more structured and academically oriented programs (RAP) derived different outcomes than students involved in the less structured programs (SIRP) that are not organized around an academic theme. The third question found that several subgroups within survey sample, including students of color, junior-year and first-year students in a SIRP derived different outcomes than their counterparts in a traditional residence hall setting.
These findings support the literature on living-learning community outcomes, and also suggest that residential learning communities represent one method of bridging the gap between students' in- and out-of-class experiences and with providing students with a seamless learning environment described in the literature. Moreover, this study suggests that positive outcomes can be derived from low-end living-learning community programs of various types. These findings suggest that campuses should develop living-learning community programs to support undergraduate student learning even if these structures are modestly designed and low cost.