English as a Second Language (ESL) learning communities: An approach to retaining ESL students in a community college
This study explores an English as a Second Language (ESL) Introduction to Psychology Learning Community (ESL-IPLC) as an approach to retaining ESL students in a community college. Retention is a problem in all higher education settings, but is especially important for community colleges because of their "open door" policy. Community colleges enroll the highest proportion of new immigrants. Most come from low-income families, and more than half, are employed full-time (Boswell, 2004), creating very challenging odds for retention. There is little research on retention of ESL students who participate in community college learning communities, but some of the literature on retention presents learning communities as an intervention. Combining the theories of Tinto and Astin, social and academic integration appear to be not just an integral part of learning communities but a stimulus for retention. The findings of this study indicate that there was evidence of social integration in the ESL-IPLC in the form of membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. The factors that contributed to this social integration were the learning community's format, content, pedagogy, and tone. There was also evidence of academic integration in the form of membership in an academic community, faculty relationships, peer group relationships, and commitment to academic goals. The factors that contributed to academic integration in the ESL-IPLC were the academic activities, pedagogy, and academic environment. Finally, descriptive statistics showed that the ESL-IPLC students had retention rates that were equal to or higher than those of ESL students in comparable level classes.
English as a Second Language;
0441: English as a Second Language
0516: Adult education
0525: Educational psychology