Where Are They Now? Is the MythBusters Learning Community Really “Making a Difference”?

Christopher R. Freed and Philip J. Carr
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, University of South Alabama

“MythBusters: Critical Thinking and Making a Difference” is a six credit-hour learning community for first-year students at the University of South Alabama that consists of a First Year Experience course, an introductory-level sociology course called Social Problems, and a one-hour Service Learning course.  We have taught the MythBusters learning community for three consecutive semesters:  Fall 2011, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013.  In this paper, we evaluate the efficacy of the MythBusters learning community with regard to several unique student outcome measures by comparing academic performance and other indicators of student success of MythBusters students against the University’s broader undergraduate student population.  We compare MythBusters’ ACT scores, first-semester grade-point average, second-semester enrollment figures, and even first-year living arrangements against the same information for first-year students who in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013 did not enroll in a learning community.  We analyze current enrollment figures, current coursework hours completed toward graduation, and current grade-point average of former MythBusters students against similar information for all undergraduate students at the University.  We contextualize these student outcome measures with focus group data collected from MythBusters students from the Fall 2011, Fall 2012, and Fall 2013 cohorts.  Lastly, we discuss the implications of our findings for the teaching and learning objectives of the MythBusters learning community and consider how our findings generalize to learning communities at the University of South Alabama and to learning communities at large state universities throughout the country.