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Title:Voices of persistence: a case study analysis of African American male community college students participating in a first-year learning community
Author(s):Fletcher, Randall Paul
Director of Research:Bragg, Debra
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baber, Lorenzo
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Trent, William; Welton, Anjale
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
African American Males
Community colleges
Higher Education
Academic and social integration
Abstract:Higher education scholars continue to investigate the factors and forces that impede enrollment and persistence of African American male students (Cuyjet, 1997, 2006: Harper, 2004, 2006a; Pope, 2006; Bush & Bush, 2010; Strayhorn, 2012). While research into the deficits of these male college students continues to underscore cognitive shortcomings and faulty secondary education as the leading causes for African American male student attrition in higher education, recently research and inquiry has shifted to affective forces and institutional factors that influence these male students to participate in higher education and persist to the completion of their academic goals. Despite this increasing interest in the influence non-cognitive factors on college persistence, the current discourse on African American male students does not sufficiently address the experiences of African American males in community colleges. The diversity in the delivery of instruction is vast in higher education and even more so in the community college setting, where experimentation on learning environments is well documented (Levin, 2000; Phelps & Evans, 2006). With the lack of research on African American male experiences in their first year of study, combined with the unique and innovation approaches that learning communities provide for cohort learning, peer development and student growth, this study will contribute to the larger body of literature on African American male college students by utilizing current persistence models and frameworks to investigate the experiences of African American males in community college first year learning communities. Researchers have utilized Joseph Tinto’s Theory of Student Departure (1975, 1987, 1993) in their investigations of the persistence of community college students. Scholars continue to evaluate the efficacy and usefulness of Tinto’s theory when examining the persistence of African American male community college students (Deil-Amen, 2006; Rosenbaum, Deil-Amen, & Person, 2006). From this research have emerged other conceptual frameworks that realign the focus of student departure in higher education to the integrative moments in both the social and academic lives of students that connects or warms them up to their educational aspirations rather highlighting the reasons why students disconnect and depart. Deil-Amen’s (2006, 2011) socio-academic integration concept suggests that students persist in higher education when institutional factors influence their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom resulting in a sense of belonging and positive self-identification as a successful college student. This study used qualitative case study methods to investigate the lived experiences of African American male students enrolled in a large community college learning community during the fall of 2014. Purposeful sampling yielded 10 student participants and three faculty members. Student participants were all current or past participants of the first-year Together We Achieve learning community. Three face-to-face interviews took place with five of the participants simultaneously with observations of classes in the learning community and academic success center. One focus group was conducted with five additional TWA students. One face-to-face interview with each of the faculty participants was also conducted. Three themes emerged from the participants’ experiences in the first-year learning community: 1) pre-college educational experiences influence higher education enrollment; 2) institutional factors influence social and academic integration; and 3) social and personal forces erect barriers to persistence.
Issue Date:2015-04-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Randall Fletcher
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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