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Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Reading: An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College. Michael J. Weiss MDRC michael.weiss@mdrc.org. Mary Visher MDRC mary.visher@mdrc.org. Heather Wathington University of Virginia hw4w@virginia.edu.

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Learning Communities for Students in Developmental Reading: An Impact Study at Hillsborough Community College

Michael J. Weiss

MDRC

michael.weiss@mdrc.org

Mary Visher

MDRC

mary.visher@mdrc.org

Heather Wathington

University of Virginia

hw4w@virginia.edu

2010 Institute of Education Sciences Research Conference

June 28-30, 2010

outline
Outline
  • Project Background
  • Site and Study Participants
  • The Program
  • Program Impacts
  • Conclusions
community colleges
Community Colleges

Source: Provasnik & Plant (2008). http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008033.pdf

the problem
The Problem

Low Rates of Completion

  • Nearly half of all students who begin at community college do not complete a degree or transfer within 6 years.1

One Major Obstacle: Developmental Education

  • In fall 2000, 42 percent of first-year community college students took at least one developmental course.2
  • Other estimates suggest that among students whose first institution of attendance was a community college, over 60 percent take at least one developmental course.3

1Hoachlander, Sikora, & Horn (2003); 2Parsad & Lewis (2004); 3Adelman (2004)

learning communities lcs

What are they?

Small groups of students are co-enrolled as cohorts in two or more courses

Thematically linked courses, sometimes sharing a curriculum, assignments, and assessments

Teacher collaboration

Why might they work?

Strengthen relationships among students / faculty

Engage students more deeply with learning

Learning Communities (LCs)
past evidence that lcs work

Several quasi-experiments

Tinto and others have found that students in learning communities benefit both academically and socially in comparison with similar students who do not enroll in learning communities

One Randomized Controlled Trial

MDRC’s study at Kingsborough Community College found that the opportunity to participate in a learning community improved students’ college experience and improved some educational outcomes

Past Evidence that LCs work

1Tinto, Goodsell-Love, and Russo (1994); Engstrom and Tinto (2008); Richburg-Hayes, Visher, and Bloom (2008);

learning communities demo

Experiments at 6 Community Colleges

All random assignment evaluations

Various learning communities models

5 of 6 target students in need of developmental education

Two link developmental math, three link developmental reading or English, one links courses required by major

Variation in curricular integration / faculty collaboration

Learning Communities Demo

For more on:

LC Demo Study Design: http://www.mdrc.org/publications/476/full.pdf

Scaling-Up Learning Communities: http://www.mdrc.org/publications/550/full.pdf

about hillsborough

Located in Tampa, Fl

Large, five campus college – serves over 20,000 students, three campuses participated in the LC Demo

Some pre-experimental experience with LCs

Racially diverse campus – 52% white, 18% Black, 22% Hispanic

About Hillsborough
hillsborough s program

Co-enrolled students into two classes:

Developmental Reading

Student Success Course (focusing on acclimation to college, study skills)

Curricular integration

At first, this was not explicitly part of their design

In time, efforts were made to add this learning community component (e.g., staff were sent to professional development, workshops were held at Hillsborough)

Hillsborough’s Program
program implementation

LC basic stats

3 cohorts (Fall 07, Spring 08, Fall 08)

24 learning communities

~ 20 students per LC

Program uptake was lower than expected

31 percent of program group students did not enroll in an LC

Integration of curriculum

Was not an initial focus at Hillsborough, but began to take hold in the last semester of the program (third cohort)

Program Implementation
conclusions

This study does not provide evidence that a “basic” learning communities model is any more effective than business as usual services

Exploratory analyses suggest that a more comprehensive learning community may be more effective than business as usual

Stay tuned! – future LC demo reports may confirm finding (2), and they will provide a test of other learning communities models (some more comprehensive) in other contexts!

Conclusions
contact information
Contact Information

Michael J. Weiss, Research Associate

michael.weiss@mdrc.org

Mary Visher, Senior Research Associate

mary.visher@mdrc.org

Heather Wathington, Assistant Professor

hw4w@virginia.edu

For more information on MDRC and NCPR’s work, go to:

MDRC: http://www.mdrc.org

NCPR’s: http://www.postsecondaryresearch.org/