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Cohorts and Relatedness: Self-Determination Theory as an Explanation of How Learning Communities Affect Educational Outcomes

Abstract

This study examines whether feelings of relatedness constitute a substantial means by which learning communities (cohorts) improve learning outcomes in higher education. It applies Ryan and Deci’s Self-Determination Theory to an analysis of the National Survey of Student Engagement. The SDT hypothesizes that environments that support perceptions of social relatedness improve motivation, thereby positively influencing learning behavior. The authors propose that participation in cohort programs constitutes such an environment. Measuring student perceptions of the contributions of their institutions, the study found increased relatedness to peers and faculty and increased higher order thinking assignments (a control variable included in the research model) to be substantial predictors of educational outcomes relevant to literacy, critical thinking, and, especially, job preparation. The researchers suggest that institutions will want to ensure that their learning community designs enhance student feelings of relatedness.

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Beachboard, M.R., Beachboard, J.C., Li, W. et al. Cohorts and Relatedness: Self-Determination Theory as an Explanation of How Learning Communities Affect Educational Outcomes. Res High Educ 52, 853–874 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-011-9221-8

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Keywords

  • Self-Determination Theory
  • National Survey of Student Engagement
  • NSSE
  • Relatedness
  • Cohorts
  • Learning communities