Adding Value: Learning communities and student engagement

C. Zhao
G. D. Kuh


This study examines the relationships between participating in learning communities and student engagement in a range of educationally purposeful activities of first-year and senior students from 365 4-year institutions. The findings indicate that participating in a learning community is positively linked to engagement as well as student self-reported outcomes and overall satisfaction with college.


Learning communities, College students, Student development, Student engagement, Effective educational practices, Integrative learning


The authors of this study examine the role learning communities play in student engagement and educationally purposeful activities in first-year and senior students. In observing 365 4-year colleges and universities and over 80,000 students around the nation, OLS regressions showed positive relationships between not only learning communities and student engagement, but also academic benefits, fruitful educational activities, college attendance, and overall experience satisfaction. These results remain in seniors. The authors conclude with several administrative suggestions including college leaders taking an active part in assuring the presence and diversity of college groups. Further, the authors say all students should have the opportunity to take part in learning communities, and they note that men, transfer, and part-time students are less likely to be a part of these communities.

APA Citation

Zhao, C., & Kuh, G. D. (2004). Adding value: Learning communities and student engagement. Research in Higher Education, 45, 115-138

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Research in Higher Education
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Course, program, or institutional culture, Engagement, Learning community
Level of Analysis Student-level, Institutional-level
Specific Populations Examined First-year students
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades, Learning effectiveness
Student Sample Size 500 +
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