Fostered Learning: Exploring Effects of Faculty and Student Affairs Staff Roles Within Living-Learning Programs on Undergraduate Student Perceptions of Growth in Cognitive Dimensions
Komives, Susan R
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The purpose of this study was to explore effects of faculty and student affairs staff roles within living-learning programs (LLPs) on perceptions of growth in critical thinking/analysis abilities, cognitive complexity, and liberal learning among LLP participants. This study used two data sources from the National Study of Living-Learning Programs (NSLLP), a multi-institutional study of LLPs that included data on student background characteristics, experiences, and outcomes. Data sources included the 2007 baseline study and data from the Living-Learning Programs Survey. The 2007 NSLLP administration contained data from 48 institutions and 11,606 students living in LLPs. The General Causal Model for Assessing the Effects of Differential College Environments on Student Learning and Cognitive Development (Pascarella, 1985) served as the conceptual framework for this study. This model proposed that learning and cognitive development were functions of institutional characteristics, student background/pre-college traits, interactions with agents of socialization (peers and faculty), institutional environment, and quality of effort. An adapted form of this model was used in this study to include the potential effects of LLP characteristics, such as the involvement of faculty and student affairs professional staff. The cognitive outcomes used in this study were critical thinking/analysis abilities, cognitive complexity, and liberal learning. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine the direct and differential effects of faculty and student affairs professional staff roles on the study outcomes. Study results showed that numerous curricular and co-curricular experiences shared positive and negative relationships across all three cognitive outcomes. Student affairs mentorship had a negative direct association with cognitive complexity and liberal learning, while increased student affairs socio-cultural involvement contributed positively. Faculty involvement in socio-cultural activities also contributed positively. Student affairs mentorship, student affairs socio-cultural activities and faculty socio-cultural activities accounted for differential effects on sense of belonging for cognitive complexity. Only student affairs mentorship yielded a differential effect for sense of belonging when examining liberal learning. A primary implication for practice was the importance of designing integrative curricular and co-curricular experiences, such that faculty and student affairs staff not only work together to in the design, but also participate in these efforts within LLPs.