Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical/Computer Engineering


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Alan M. Schwitzer

Committee Member

John S. Capps

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh


The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of social and academic interaction, demographic characteristics, social and academic adjustment, and learning communities on the satisfaction, achievement, and retention of developmental English community college students.

The literature presented discusses the retention theories of Tinto, Astin, and Bean and their overlapping ideas on persistence. A common thread among these theories is the role of academic and social interaction on the personal development, satisfaction, achievement, and retention of students. Learning communities represent one academic structure that has proven effective in increasing the level of academic and social interaction. Unfortunately, the existing literature provides little information to guide retention programs for underprepared community college learners.

The study was a quantitative nonexperimental correlational design with participants from nine purposefully selected developmental English classes at Virginia Western Community College. Of the 120 students that completed the survey, 50 students were learning community participants and 70 students were non-learning community participants. The survey combined several measures including a demographic information sheet, the Institutional Integration Scale, the Classroom Environment Scale, the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire, a satisfaction and goals information sheet, registration data, and achievement and retention information from transcript data.

The study concluded that learning community participants had higher perceived levels and types of interaction than non-learning community participants; that demographic characteristics influenced individual's levels and types of interaction; that academic achievement was influenced by satisfaction, with all other predictors having a weak relationship to achievement; and that all of the predictors studied had a weak influence on retention.

The results of the study, some of which support and some of which contradict existing literature, suggest finding an especially strong relationship between any single influence and retention may be difficult due to the diverse individual characteristics and experiences learners bring to two-year institutions. As a result, although learning communities appear to increase involvement, they are just one of many strategies probably needed to increase the retention of underprepared community college students. More research on retention is needed with underprepared students, in particular.