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Embracing the uncertainty of community: a study of students' perceptions of connection and learning in higher education

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jessica Delk McCall, Lecturer (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Advisor
Glenn Hudak

Abstract: Many educators are intently implementing pedagogical techniques to connect students in the classroom. With great optimism, educators engage university students in activities and practices that build community and challenge individualistic beliefs, with the hope that society will be more compassionate, more communal, and overall "better." It is time to explore the perceptions of undergraduate students, as their voices are integral in not only providing them with a meaningful college experience, but also in encouraging educators to reflect on beliefs about and expectations for college education in the 21st century. Through a qualitative study with a constructivist paradigm, current undergraduate students' perceptions of university education and classroom community were explored. Three hundred and twenty-three students were surveyed, representing two universities in the southeastern region of the United States. Additionally, nine students and five faculty members from these universities were interviewed to provide a deeper understanding of possible student perceptions. The results were coded, analyzed, and presented as portraits of student perceptions. Two key themes were identified: 1) How educators might use pedagogy to help students gain knowledge that complements their end goal of success, without denying the opportunity for inquiry and critical thinking; and 2) How educators might encourage students to embrace the uncertainty and possibility of connection with others and why this is not considered integral for success. These themes will be analyzed through three distinct, yet related lenses: 1) Commitment and Togetherness; 2) Cognitive Development and Inquiry; and 3) Building Classroom Community. The findings enable educators to gain a deeper understanding of student perceptions and the possible implications of these beliefs in the improvement of university teaching and learning. Educators are reminded to remain "uncertain" about the pedagogical techniques they choose to implement, as they are only tools to help students reach higher levels of learning and growth. Conversely, educators must respect the potential power of undergraduate classroom communities, as they remind students they are human and challenge all to face insecurities surrounding individualism and commitment.

Additional Information

Publication
Dissertation
Language: English
Date: 2009
Keywords
Community, Connection, Higher education, Inquiry, Learning, Perception
Subjects
Education, Higher $x Methodology.
Education, Higher $x Social aspects.
Education, Higher $x Aims and objectives.
Education, Higher $x Philosophy.
College students $x Attitudes.
Inquiry (Theory of knowledge)