Natural science majors and liberal education: the impact of a living-learning community
The purpose of this study was to explore the articulated experiences of natural science majors who were participating in a liberal arts living-learning community. Using the American Association of College and University's (2002) report, Greater Expectations as an organizing framework, this study sought to determine how - if at all - students in this learning community were encountering the organizational educational principles consistent with classical and contemporary liberal education. The study was a qualitative inquiry that examined students' precollege experiences and beliefs, their current perceptions on their academic experiences, and student reflections on the meaning of these experiences. The data collected and analyzed in the completion of this study consisted of a series of 19 individual interviews with students enrolled in both a natural science major and in a living- learning community (LLC). Analysis of the interview data led the researcher to identify four themes: (a) Students attributed intellectual growth to experiences in both the major and the LLC, and that the science curriculum was in some ways separated from the liberal arts curriculum; (b) Students experienced and defined diversity in meaningful ways; (c) Physical place and social space of the LLC contributed significantly to the program; and (d) Students reflected learning experiences and outcomes consistent with both classical and contemporary liberal educational environments. Ultimately, the students in this study viewed their participation in the LLC as a meaningful supplement to the science major. Further analysis of the findings, as well as conclusions and recommendations for both policy and practice, are discussed in the final chapter of the study.