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Developmental Education Learning Communities: What Works? What Doesn’t? What’s Next?. Evan Weissman, MDRC Alexander Mayer, MDRC Audrey Yamagata-Noji, Mt. San Antonio College Mary Beth Love, SF State/CCSF Metro Academies. Strengthening Student Success: October 3, 2012. Overview.

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developmental education learning communities what works what doesn t what s next

Developmental EducationLearning Communities:What Works? What Doesn’t?What’s Next?

Evan Weissman, MDRC

Alexander Mayer, MDRC

Audrey Yamagata-Noji, Mt. San Antonio College

Mary Beth Love, SF State/CCSF Metro Academies

Strengthening Student Success: October 3, 2012

  • Introductions
  • Research Findings: What works (and what doesn’t)?
  • What’s Next?

Program descriptions and responses to the research from Mt. SAC and the Metro Academies

  • What’s Next?

Ideas, questions, and answers from the audience


what are learning communities
What Are “Learning Communities”?
  • Co-Enrollment: Groups of about 25 students are co-enrolled in two or more courses.
  • Instructor Collaboration: Instructors collaborate on curriculum and helping students.
  • Curricular Integration: Courses are thematically linked and include joint syllabi and assignments.
  • Additional Supports: Students get enhanced academic support and/or counseling.


theory of change
Theory of Change
  • Students form stronger relationships with each other and instructors
  • Students become more engaged through inter-disciplinary learning
  • Students benefit from extra support


evaluations of six programs

Community College:

Linked developmental math with a college-level course

Merced College:

Linked developmental

English and a variety of


Community College of

Baltimore County:

Linked developmental English, a college-level course, and seminar


Community College:

Houston Community College:

Linked developmental reading with a student success course

Linked developmental math with a student success course

Evaluations of Six Programs
  • Kingsborough Community College:
  • Linked English with a college-level course and a student success course


implementation findings
Implementation Findings
  • Program components were implemented with reasonable fidelity, but with considerable variation in how tightly courses were integrated.
    • Variation within colleges more than variation between colleges
  • Programs operated at a fairly large scale:
    • Over 170 learning communities in the study
    • Nearly 7,000 students participated in the study
  • Average cost of learning communities about $500 per program group member, above base costs.


dev ed students average impacts across the six colleges credits earned in targeted subject
Dev-Ed Students – Average Impacts Across the Six Colleges: Credits Earned in Targeted Subject

Increased Credits Earned in the Targeted Subject






dev ed students average impacts across the six colleges total credits earned cumulative
Dev-Ed Students – Average Impacts Across the Six Colleges: Total Credits Earned (cumulative)

Initially Increased Total Credits Earned







dev ed students enrollment in program and post program semesters persistence
Dev-Ed Students – Enrollment in Program and Post-Program Semesters (Persistence)

Did Not Impact Persistence


long term effects kingsborough program
Long-Term EffectsKingsborough Program
  • Kingsborough had large short-term estimated impacts
    • 1.6 credits in the targeted sequence for dev-ed students
    • 2.8 total credits after 2 years (including college-level students and credits earned at other colleges)
  • Six years after entering the study, compared to the control group, students in learning communities:
    • Earned 4.0 more credits; and
    • Were more likely to earn a degree (4.6 percentage points)
    • The program was cost-effective


the kingsborough difference
The Kingsborough Difference
  • Linked 3-courses
  • Recruited students intending to enroll full-time
  • Included students in college-level as well as developmental English
  • Built in strong academic and counseling support
  • Gave out book vouchers
  • Received strong support of college leaders


evaluation conclusions
Evaluation Conclusions
  • On average, learning communities for developmental education students produce only a modest impact on credits earned
  • However, one-semester learning communities can have a long-term impact and even boost graduation.
  • Implementing learning communities at scale is challenging but possible. Establishing high levels of curricular integration is particularly difficult.


mt san antonio college
Mt. San Antonio College
  • Partnership between Student Services and Instruction
  • Focus on first time freshmen, low income, first generation college students assessing at the basic skills level
  • Link basic skills class with a counseling class; links are formed into cohorts enrolled in a community class
  • Began Summer Bridge Learning Community in 1997; current Summer Bridge Program 2012 “graduated” over 350 students with over 1,000 applicants
  • Academic year program continues with the English Academy and Math Academy serving almost 1,000 students
  • Have expanded to offering transfer level courses in English and Math at students’ request and with faculty interest
  • Successful pass rates show that students in learning communities basic skills classes consistently outperform students in other classes by as much as a 27% difference in successful pass rates


core components
Core Components
  • Faculty integrate curriculum including class projects, study group assignments and teaching styles
  • Faculty trained in “On Course” pedagogical strategies for more engaged learner-centered teaching
  • All students complete educational plans with counselors
  • Academic support provided by Tutors in the Classroom and Supplemental Instruction, Tutoring, Study Groups, Peer Mentoring, Computer Lab and “Study Hall” location
  • Community building is the core: student:student, faculty:student, faculty:faculty through the Community Class, program activities (workshops, field trips), and internal classroom assignments and activities


ah ha moments
Ah-ha Moments
  • Students pass core, sequential classes on first attempt – savings to the college, confidence-building for the student
  • Students need to feel a connectedness to the college – a continued sense of community and belonging Students can transition from a basic-skills focused learning community to the honors program
  • Program uniqueness: Intentional effort to create a community for students to which they “belong” – a family support system. Students feel “less lost”
  • Student exiting without another community – “Everything else is not enough.”
  • Successful students exit the program with transferrable skills to use in other classes and confidence due to having a sense of direction (educational plan)


7 essential elements of metro
7 Essential Elements of Metro
  • Targeted outreach
  • General education course pathway
  • Long-duration student learning community
  • Curriculum design
  • Student support tied to courses
  • Tracking student success and program performance
  • Faculty development