Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



Colleges and universities have first-year residential living learning programs that use academic and social programming to contribute to students’ academic success. While a variety of students choose to live in these living learning communities (LLCs), there is little research on the benefits derived by specific groups of students. Students who are classified as at-risk, including first generation and / or from families challenged by low income levels were targeted for this research. The engagement of these at-risk students participating in LLCs was the focus of this mixed methods study. The research questions addressed by this study were directed toward understanding how participation in LLCs effect the engagement of at-risk students and how students’ perceived the benefits of support opportunities. In addition, a comparison of the perceptions of students who lived in LLCs that were discipline-specific with those who lived in non-discipline specific LLCs was made. This mix methods study was retrospective in nature given that sophomore students were asked about their first year experiences and opportunities. Surveys about perceptions of student engagement were administered to at-risk students participating in LLCs and traditional residence halls (TRHs) followed up by individual and focus group interviews to gain deeper insights about their experiences. More positive perceptions were reported by at-risk students with respect to academic integration and institutional climate in LLCs compared with TRH students and more positive perceptions were reported by at-risk students with respect to academic integration in discipline specific LLCs compared with non-discipline specific LLCs. In addition, the study results revealed distinctive faculty-student interaction within discipline specific LLCs and beneficial support opportunities. These beneficial support opportunities included LLC faculty office hours, peer study groups, sponsored events, faculty supplemental instruction and tutoring, rector advising, and faculty discussion groups. Findings from this inquiry have the potential to contribute to theory, practice, policy, and future studies of learning communities in higher education. Recommendations were made by the researcher from the study’s findings that included incorporating a second year LLC program, co-curricular programming for TRHs, and increased student exploration of their major field in non-discipline specific LLCs.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

MacGregor, S. Kim



Included in

Education Commons