Academic journal article College Student Journal

Students' Perceived Sense of Campus Community: The Influence of Out-of-Class Experiences

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Students' Perceived Sense of Campus Community: The Influence of Out-of-Class Experiences

Article excerpt

Out-of-class involvement provides students with opportunities for rich social lives which, according to Cheng (2004), are closely associated with sense of campus community. Based on Astin's (1984) Theory of Involvement, and Boyer's (1990) principles of community, the purpose of this study was to examine how involvement in out-of-class activities influences students' perceived sense of campus community. Three hundred and thirty respondents completed an on-line questionnaire which consisted of demographics and questions related to their out-of-class involvement in 14 areas as identified by the institutions' Dean of Students Office, and a 25-item sense of community scale developed by Cheng (2004). Out-of-class involvement levels were examined using a hierarchical cluster analysis. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to examine the underlying factor structure of the sense of community scale. The six factors extracted from the EFA served as dependent variables and respondents' out of class involvement levels stemming from the cluster analysis were used to measure differences in perceived sense of campus community based on involvement using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance. Results generally indicate students with higher levels of participation in certain campus involvement areas have a significantly higher perceived sense of campus community within the following factors: teaching and learning, history and tradition, diversity and acceptance, residential experience, and loneliness and stress.

Introduction

It is well-established that involvement in out-of-class activities enhances development and is a significant factor in retention (Tinto, 1993; Thomas, 2000). Student involvement and engagement in educationally purposeful activities is essential in developing a sense of campus community (Kinzie & Schuh, 2008). Brazzell and Reisser (1999) assert that "the greater the opportunity for students to participate in a range of activities, the more likely they are to feel a part of their community and to become productive contributors. Students who participate in student government, cocurricular clubs and activities, and fraternities and sororities are able to gain a greater understanding of the larger society" (p. 173). The benefits of a strong campus community are numerous. Boyer (1990) suggested that a strong campus community can define the "enduring values that undergird a community of learning" (p. 7). Accurate information about student engagement and involvement in various co-curricular activities, and how they contribute to the development of a sense of community, is important not only for student success and persistence, but also in informing the policy decisions of an institution as to how and where institutional resources should be allocated. In difficult economic times, it is essential that policymakers and administrators have information as to the types of campus activities that positively contribute to a strong sense of campus community. This information not only provides a focus of encouragement to increase student persistence and success, but also confirms that resources allocated to student activities are worthwhile institutional investments.

Literature Review

Student Involvement and Engagement

There are differences in the terms "involvement" and "engagement" depending on the nature of the research and the perspective of the researchers. However, for the purposes of this study, the terms involvement and engagement are used interchangeably. An interview with Alexander Astin supports this interchangeable use of terms when he states "there are 'no essential differences' between the terms engagement and involvement" (Wolf-Wendel, Ward, & Kinzie, 2009, p. 417). Research has shown the inextricable tie between student involvement or engagement and persistence. Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, and Whitt (2005) propose "what students do during college counts more for what they learn and whether they will persist in college than who they are or even where they go to college" (p. …

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