Effect of a Place-Based Learning Community on Belonging, Persistence, and Equity Gaps for First-Year STEM Students

Innovative Higher Education / July 2020

The authors combined tenets of learning communities and place-based learning to develop an innovative first-year program for STEM students. Using a quasi-experimental design, the authors found that participants in the place-based learning community had a stronger sense of belonging, improved academic performance, and increased first-year persistence relative to a matched reference group. The authors also showed that participation narrowed equity gaps in first-year outcomes for students underrepresented in the sciences. A sense of place arises not just from a location, but from interrelationships between people and the natural world, and these results suggest organizing learning around place can promote inclusive student success.