Educational psychology in higher education
First-year learning communities (FLCs) are known to improve student integration during the first year at university. The FLC classroom social climate and its potential role in contributing to this positive effect of FLCs have not been studied. The current study wants to elucidate students’ perceptions of the social climate within the Utrecht Undergraduate Pharmacy FLCs by exploring students’ perceptions and perceived value of peer and student-teacher interactions within these FLCs, relate these perceptions to the dimensions of the classroom social climate and clarify which factors help or hinder a positive perceived value. Fourteen first-year students from the cohort 2020-2021 (n=208) participated in semi-structured individual interviews in the first, second, and fourth period of the first year. At year’s end, first year students completed an online questionnaire on the quality of peer and student-teacher interactions. Our results show that FLC interactions are positively valued when students experience academic support from peers and teacher, socio-emotional support from peers and teacher, and active participation in class activities which corresponds to the classroom social climate dimensions student cohesiveness, student involvement and personalisation. Students’ perceived value of interactions was influenced by a variety of factors of which online classes hampered all valued classroom social climate dimensions. Socio-emotional support from peers and teacher was not only one of the most valued classroom climate elements, it also indirectly promoted academic support and active participation. This highlights the importance of socio-emotional support in the classroom, which should receive an increased amount of attention in higher education.
- Interactions with peers and teachers in the classroom are positively valued when students experience high levels of academic support from peers and teacher, socio-emotional support from peers and teacher, and active participation in class activities.
- An online setting of classes has a huge impact on the perceived value of classroom interactions because it hampers the experienced academic support from peers and teacher, socio-emotional support from peers and teacher, and active participation in class activities.
- Socio-emotional support takes a core position in perceived value of classroom interactions: When students experience a high level of personal connection with peers and teacher, they seem to feel comfortable in the classroom and, as a result, dare to ask for help and speak up in class.
- Supportive and caring relationships can be fostered by pedagogical strategies, such as devoting time and effort to know names and unravel a student’s personal needs, expressing positive emotions, and explicating availability for help and questions.
- Teachers may positively affect student-student relationships by creating opportunities for students to get to know each other during class time, including collaborative assignments and changing groups in collaborative assignments.
van der Zijden, J. P., & Wubbels, T. (2023). Socio-emotional support in Higher Education: Evidence from First Year Learning Communities. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 20(6). https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol20/iss6/23