Does feeling part of a learning community help students to do well in their A levels?

Julian P Dziubinski


Learning communities are said to improve academic achievement, contribute to higher retention rates, enhance student satisfaction, develop their thinking and communication skills, help them to understand themselves better, and close the gap between their academic and social worlds (Lenning and Ebbers, 1999). It is the link between students doing well and being part of a learning community that forms the basis of this study. Sixteen A level students at FE college participatedin a focus group interview and a learning community questionnaire, both of which were based on the theories of Eckert, Goldman and Wenger (1997). Thematic coding analysis (whereby codes were generated from the raw data of the transcriptions) revealed that students understood the meaning of a learning community, that they felt part of a learning community and that this helped them to do well in their A levels. The study concluded that, whilst FE colleges as learning communities are largely conducive to students doing well, little has changed from the students’ point of view since Bloomer and Hodkinson’s 1997 study, Moving to FE. Furthermore, bearing in mind also that students’ experiences and concerns embraced ‘personal’ and ‘college’ issues, three main drivers emerged, which should build a greater sense of learning community and enable students to become more successful in their A levels: FE policy, teacher professionalism and stronger liaisons with external agencies.


A levels, further education, learning community, student achievement, policy

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