Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educ Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

William A. Owings

Committee Member

Robert A. Lucking

Committee Member

Jack E. Robinson


This study addressed the need for more information about academic growth and achievement in mathematics, and how it relates to sense of community in middle school settings. This was accomplished by applying the Classroom and School Community Inventory (CSCI) construct (Rovai, Wighting, & Lucking, 2004) to all three middle schools in one rural county. The CSCI was utilized to measure sense of community in mathematics classes to determine if differences existed between grades six, seven, and eight, including gender subgroups, among the three middle schools in the same rural county. This study examined academic growth in the subject of mathematics for middle school students in the participating schools as measured using the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests (EOGs) in Mathematics as the comparison instrument for mathematics achievement.

Students' classroom sense of community levels and mathematics growth scores on the EOG'S were examined for correlations among the schools and grade levels. Results revealed differences in classroom sense of community between the participating schools and between some grade levels. The study found no relationship between sense of community and academic growth in mathematics at the school level. However, the data for the largest school (N = 350) showed a trend toward positive correlation. There was a significant correlation (p = .05) between sense of community and mathematics achievement for grade levels seven and eight at the largest of the three middle schools, and for grade six at the second largest school (N = 167).

Another issue examined in this study was to determine if differences existed between genders when compared to academic growth in mathematics and classroom sense of community. The results of the analyses indicated that there was a relationship in three out of the 54 total mathematics classes in the three schools, but the individual classroom sample sizes in those instances were problematically small. Therefore, no conclusive findings were noted regarding gender.

This study included an additional investigation into student motivation, student engagement, and classroom disruption. All three factors were found to be predictors of classroom sense of community and each had a significant correlation (p < .001) with classroom sense of community. Motivation and engagement were positively correlated with classroom sense of community and disruption had a significant negative correlation with classroom sense of community. The study concludes with recommendations for future research focusing on middle school learning communities, in particular, more diverse student populations in urban and suburban settings. Most importantly, this researcher's findings that student motivation, student engagement, and classroom disruption were found to be significant predictors of sense of community can have an impact on future research in education. These significant findings are generalizable to other educational environments and should be explored further.