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Exploring Student-Faculty Interactions in Out-of-Classroom Settings: Student Perspectives at Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Amy P Gauthier, Johnson & Wales University


Students choose to attend liberal arts institutions for a number of different reasons, including small class size, breadth of academic material, and emphasis on life-long learning (Astin, 1999; Pascarella, Cruce, Wolniak, & Blaich, 2004). Those attending small liberal arts colleges have come to expect that they will have a higher level of interaction with faculty members as a result of small class size (Astin, 1984; Cox & Orehovec, 2007). Astin’s (1984) theory of involvement, which will serve as a theoretical framework for the study, states that students who are more involved, both inside and outside the classroom, are more likely to persist through graduation. Exploring the interactions between students and faculty members is a key component in the creation of environments where students find a level of satisfaction and persist through until graduation (Tinto, 1993). This qualitative interpretive study (Creswell, 2007; Patton, 2002), addressed the following research question: How do upperclassmen describe their interactions with faculty members in out-of-classroom settings at small liberal arts colleges? This study sought to explore the interactions between students and faculty in out-of-classroom settings through the use of semi-structured depth interviews (Creswell, 2007; Patton, 2002). Purposeful and snowball sampling techniques (Patton, 2002) were utilized to secure participants from a regional consortium of liberal arts colleges in New England. Students of senior standing were selected because of the breadth of information they were able to provide regarding their experiences in college (Van Etten, Pressley, McInerney, & Liam, 2008). In addition, faculty members were interviewed to offer a supplemental perspective on the issue being studied. All interviews were audio taped and transcribed for the purpose of coding and analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994). This study provides a deeper understanding of the interactions that occur between students and faculty in out-of-classroom settings. As a result, college personnel will be able to integrate the findings into the design and implementation of future programming efforts and faculty are able to use the results to facilitate meaningful out-of-classroom interactions with students.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|School administration

Recommended Citation

Gauthier, Amy P, "Exploring Student-Faculty Interactions in Out-of-Classroom Settings: Student Perspectives at Small Liberal Arts Colleges" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3505922.