One Campus' Integration of Learning and Living in Community for Critical Thinking, Written Communication, Human Development, and Diversity: An Exploratory Study

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Educational Leadership


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: Carolyn Ridenour


The University of Dayton (UD) has seven Integrated Learning-Living Communities (ILLC) for first-year students. The campus has experimented with many iterations of residential-learning communities for over twenty years. The current iteration is based on research and best practices from the field of student development theory. Self studies at UD (Keen, 2010) using the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) have been conducted regarding the efficacy of the ILLCs on campus; however, there had been little research collected on the academic outcomes. To lessen that void, my research question was: Does participation in an Integrated Learning-Living Community improve students' critical thinking as measured by the CLA+: performance tasks and select response items, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical reading and evaluation, and critique of an argument, against the theoretical backdrop from student development literature focused on seminal pieces from Kegan (1994) and Baxter-Magolda (2004a, 2004b, 2010) and including the important work by Inkelas, Szelenyi, Soldner, and Brower (2008) and other scholars. I used the Collegiate Learning Assessment +, a quantitative instrument produced by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE, 2015), to measure the pretest (August 2016) and the posttest (April 2017) critical thinking performance of 42 first-year students enrolled in the ILLCs at the University of Dayton. My data analysis included paired samples t-tests and a mixed ANOVA. Results showed no statistically significant increase in critical thinking on the 6 measures tested. Employing post hoc interviews of selected ILLC faculty, comparing participants' CLA+ mastery to national student data, and reflections on the research design suggest these possible dynamics, among others: a ceiling effect, insufficient treatment duration, and insurmountable barriers to preventing participant attrition across the span of the study.


Educational Leadership, Educational Evaluation, Higher Education Administration, Higher Education, Teaching, Living Learning Communities, Residential Learning Communities, Critical Thinking, Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, Human Development, Written Communication, Experiential Learning

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