Inside IES Research

Notes from NCER & NCSER

DE21: A Researcher-Practitioner-Policymaker Conference on Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment improves student college going and postsecondary success, but practitioners need help in understanding the impact of dual enrollment and in learning strategies associated with effective and equitable implementation. Under the auspices of the IES-funded Evaluation of Career and College Promise (CCP) project, the North Carolina Community College System suggested hosting a conference to build knowledge and capacity in the field about dual enrollment. The Evaluation of CCP is a partnership with the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Community College System, and the RAND Corporation. In addition to the research goals—which involve looking at the implementation, impact, and cost of North Carolina’s dual enrollment program—the project also has a goal of capacity development for the agencies and for practitioners. As part of meeting this last goal, the project recently hosted a conference on Dual Enrollment: Accelerating Educational Attainment (DE21) with over 1,000 registrants from North Carolina and around the country.      

Julie Edmunds, the project’s principal investigator, discusses the DE21 conference.

Why host a conference on dual enrollment?

This was the brainchild of our partners at the North Carolina Community College System. They wanted to create an opportunity where researchers and practitioners could gather and share lessons learned from their respective work. The NC Community College System expected that we would be learning a lot from our project that we would want to share; they also knew that the people in the trenches had many valuable insights to help bridge the gap between research and practice. Because existing research shows that not all groups of students have the same access to dual enrollment, the project team decided collectively that the conference should have a strong focus on equity and to use the conference as a way to communicate and discuss strategies to support equity.

What happened at the conference?

We had a total of 40 sessions across two full days. There were dynamic keynote speakers, including Karen Stout from Achieving the Dream, and panels that discussed dual enrollment from the policy, research, student and parent perspectives. Although there was a strong North Carolina focus, there were sessions from other states such as Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, and Ohio.

Conference presentations were organized into five themes: expanding access and equity, fostering college attainment, ensuring a successful transition to college and careers, preparing students for dual enrollment, and supporting success in dual enrollment courses.

The CCP study team presented findings from our evaluation of North Carolina’s dual enrollment pathways. We looked at individual and school-level factors associated with dual enrollment participation, such as student demographics, school size, locale, percentage of students from underrepresented minority groups, academic achievement, and workforce-orientation of students. Student socioeconomic level did not affect participation in dual enrollment. We also presented preliminary impacts of North Carolina’s three different dual enrollment pathways (college transfer, Career and Technical Education, and Cooperative Innovative High Schools or early colleges). Results from these three pathways showed that CCP participants had better high school outcomes such as higher school graduation rates and were more likely to enroll in postsecondary education. In addition, there were multiple sessions sharing research results from other states.

There were many presentations from practitioners that focused on topics like rigorous instruction, advising, participation of students with disabilities, creating strong secondary-postsecondary partnerships, using high school teachers as college instructors, among others. I need to give a huge shoutout to Katie Bao from the NC Community College System, who shepherded us all through the conference planning and implementation process.

What was the impact of the pandemic?

When we originally planned for the conference, we thought it would be in person. After the pandemic hit, we decided (as many other organizations did) to host it virtually. This made the conference much more accessible to a national audience, and we had participants and presenters from around the country.

What if someone missed the conference?

Another benefit of a virtual conference is that we are able to share all the sessions from the meeting. Please visit our site on YouTube to listen to the conference. 

What comes next?

Our study work continues, and we will share the results in a variety of ways, including through briefs and journal articles. We are also planning to host a second conference in 2023 and expect that it will have a virtual component so that it can continue to be available to a national audience.


Dr. Julie Edmunds is a Program Director at the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to being the PI on the Evaluation of Career and College Promise, she is one of the leading researchers on early college, a model that combines high school and college.

Information and Advising: Identifying Effective Strategies that Help Students Navigate Postsecondary Education

The college pipeline from start to finish is an extraordinarily complex process with numerous decision points, options, and obstacles. Students from advantaged social backgrounds are more likely than those from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend schools and colleges staffed with advisers and support staff that have time and resources to assist them. They may also draw on relationships with family, adults in their communities, or knowledgeable peers for assistance in navigation decisions. For students without such supports, the sequence of choices may become so overwhelming that they respond by delaying decisions or making poor choices that lead to sizable delays in their degree progression. With these challenges in mind, IES has funded three information and advising initiatives that draw on insights from researchers, practitioners, and the research literature.

Technical Working Group Meeting

In July 2019, NCER convened a technical working group of 14 researchers and practitioners for a set of conversations structured around three intervention strategies that have garnered substantial attention over the last 5 years: nudges and other light-touch informational campaigns; intensive, proactive coaching and advising; and comprehensive approaches that comprise advising and other supports such as technology and financial incentives. Researchers and practitioners shared perceptions about the effectiveness of each strategy, its relevance to targeted student populations, and conditions for implementation. At the end of the day, working group members provided recommendations (see the Technical Working Group Meeting Summary for a full list), including the following:  

  • Institutions should help determine what strategies get tested, apply for research grants, and participate in the research as it progresses.
  • Research is needed that addresses the large amount of information that students face and that identifies the types of information that students respond to and act on.
  • Replication studies should be designed to measure the effectiveness of promising intervention strategies for specific student groups, with the goal of enhancing effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Practice Guide on Effective Advising for Postsecondary Students

In October 2021, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released a Practice Guide on Effective Advising for Postsecondary Students. The practice guide includes four evidence-based recommendations designed for an audience of administrators and staff at community colleges, 4-year institutions, and other public or private technical colleges who are responsible for designing and/or delivering advising to students:

  • Intentionally design and deliver comprehensive, integrated advising that incorporates academic and non-academic supports to empower students to reach their educational goals.
  • Transform advising to focus on the development of sustained, personalized relationships with individual students throughout their college career.
  • Use mentoring and coaching to enhance comprehensive, integrated advising in ways that support students’ achievement and progression.
  • Embed positive incentives in intentionally designed advising structures to encourage student participation and continued engagement.

Gap Analysis of Information and Advising Research and Practice

In March 2020, the Lead Team of the College Completion Network began a project aimed at identifying gaps in the research evidence base for information and advising strategies. The project is organized into three parts:

  1. A systematic review of the research literature, documenting evidence of the effect of information and advising policies, practices, and programs on student outcomes
  2. A scan of information and advising policies, practices, and programs that colleges use to improve student outcomes
  3. A gap analysis to compare the findings from the scan to the findings from the systematic review to look for effective practices that are not widely implemented and promising practices in the field that have not been evaluated

The team plans to report its full set of findings by December 2021. College Completion Network study descriptions are available here: https://collegecompletionnetwork.org/studies.


This blog is the second in a blog series on Effective Postsecondary Interventions that highlights interventions with evidence of effectiveness generated through IES-funded research. For the first blog in the series, please see here.

Written by James Benson (James.Benson@ed.gov), a Program Officer for Postsecondary Education within NCER’s Policy and Systems Division, and Felicia Sanders (Felicia.Sanders@ed.gov), a Program Officer for the What Works Clearinghouse within NCEE’s Knowledge Use Division.

 

IES Research on Improving Career Readiness and Employment Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

Group of three students in vocational education and training for electronics

Accessibility to job opportunities has long been a challenge for individuals with disabilities. In 2020, people with disabilities had a much higher unemployment rate (12.6%) than those without a disability (7.9%). To raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is held every October. The 2021 theme for NDEAM is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” which underscores the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to employment as the nation recovers from the pandemic.

NCSER supports research related to career readiness and employment for students with disabilities through the Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living (Transition) research program. Since its inception in 2006, NCSER has invested over $58 million in the Transition program and the portfolio has grown to 38 research grants. To encourage additional research in the important but under-studied area, NCSER also competed the Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities (CTE) special topic in FY 2019 and FY 2020, awarding three research grants totaling around $3 million.

Below are examples of recently funded Transition and CTE studies that are exploring, developing, or evaluating programs, policies, and practices aimed to help improve career readiness and employment outcomes for students with disabilities.

NCSER also plans to support additional research for students with disabilities with a new grant competition, Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education, funded through the American Rescue Plan. This grant competition will fund research that addresses pandemic recovery, including recovery relevant to career readiness.

For more information about NDEAM as well as ideas for celebrating this month, please see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/ndeam.

Written by Akilah Swinton Nelson, Program Officer at National Center for Special Education Research. For more information about the Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living and Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities topic areas, contact Akilah at akilah.nelson@ed.gov.

Cost Analysis in Practice: Resources for Cost Analysis Studies

IES supports rigorous research that can provide scientific evidence on how best to address our nation’s most pressing education needs. As part of the Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER) principles, IES-funded researchers are encouraged, and in some cases required, to conduct a cost analysis for their projects with the intended goal of supporting education agencies’ decision-making around the adoption of programs, policies, or practices. 

 

The Cost Analysis in Practice (CAP) Project is a 3-year initiative funded by IES to support researchers and practitioners who are planning or conducting a cost analysis of educational programs and practices. This support includes the following freely available resources.

  • Resources developed by the CAP Project
    • Introductory resources on cost analysis including Standards and Guidelines 1.1, an infographic, a video lecture, and FAQs.
    • Tools for planning your cost analysis, collecting and analyzing cost data, and reporting your results.
    • A Help Desk for you to submit inquiries about conducting a cost analysis with a response from a member of the CAP Project Team within two business days.
  • Other resources recommended by the CAP Project
    • Background materials on cost analysis
    • Guidance on carrying out a cost analysis
    • Standards for the Economic Evaluation of Educational and Social Programs
    • Cost analysis software

 

The CAP Project is also involved in longer-term collaborations with IES-funded evaluation projects to better understand their cost analysis needs. As part of this work, the CAP Project will be producing a set of three blogs to discuss practical details regarding cost studies based on its collaboration with a replication project evaluating an intervention that integrates literacy instruction into the teaching of American history. These blogs will discuss the following:

  • Common cost analysis challenges that researchers encounter and recommendations to address them
  • The development of a timeline resource for planning a cost study
  • Data collection for a cost study

 

The CAP Project is interested in your feedback on any of the CAP Project resources and welcomes suggestions for additional resources to support cost analysis. If you have any feedback, please fill out a suggestion form at the bottom of the Resources web page.

IES Announces a New Research and Development Center for Self-Directed Learning Skills in Online College Courses

In response to a call from IES for research on how to best support postsecondary teachers and students to thrive in online environment, NCER is establishing a new research and development (R&D) center. This center, led by SRI International (SRI) and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College (Columbia University), aims to help faculty embed support for self-directed learning skills into their online and hybrid courses.

This R&D center will support postsecondary instructors in making optimal use of technology features often available in online course tools to bolster student self-management strategies. Through its research and capacity-building programs, the center aims to strengthen teaching and learning, improve student outcomes, and ensure all students—regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status—have equitable learning opportunities and attainment in broad-access institutions.

“Lack of self-directed learning skills can hinder a student’s success in any college course,” says SRI’s Rebecca Griffiths, a lead researcher in the new center, “but the challenge is greater in online courses, which typically place more responsibility on students to manage their own learning.”

 

Self-directed learning skills, also known as self-regulated learning skills, encompass three interrelated and mutually reinforcing areas:

  • Affect, which includes self-efficacy and the motivation to learn
  • Strategic actions, which include planning, goal setting, strategies to organize, code, and rehearse
  • Metacognition, which includes self-monitoring, self-evaluating and self-correction

 

These three areas can form a virtuous cycle. When students believe that studying helps them learn important and useful knowledge, they are more likely to study strategically and effectively. Effective study habits in turn enhance academic performance and build positive mindsets including confidence, motivation around learning, and a sense of personal growth.

SRI and CCRC will partner with Achieving the Dream and nine broad-access, public colleges, and universities across the U.S. to conduct these research program activities.

 

The research goals of the R&D center are to—

  • Generate new knowledge about how faculty can effectively use technology features and instructional practices in online STEM courses to create a positive feedback loop for students
  • Shed light on institutional policies and practices and instructional environments needed to support a coherent, intentional, and sustainable approach to helping students build self-directed learning skills across their coursework
  • Develop and pilot a technology-enabled, skills development model that will use technology features already widely available in learning management systems, adaptive courseware, and mobile apps to deliver instruction on these skills
  • Using research findings to inform the development of a rich, interactive toolkit to support institutions and faculty as they implement self-directed learning skills instruction at scale in online programs.

 

In addition to carrying out the research activities, the center will provide national leadership and capacity-building activities for postsecondary teaching and learning. Through partnership with Achieving the Dream, technology developers, researchers, education equity advocates, and others, the center will establish the critical importance of integrating self-directed learning into instruction to improve teaching and learning and improve equity in postsecondary student outcomes. They will also engage faculty, instructional designers, and educational technology developers to share knowledge and to co-develop and disseminate capacity-building resources that support teaching these skills and strategies. 


The center is led by Dr. Deborah Jonas (PI, SRI International, top photo), Dr. Nicole Edgecombe (Co-PI, Teachers College, Columbia University), Dr. Rebecca Griffiths (Co-PI, SRI International), and Dr. Neil Seftor (Co-PI, SRI International).

This blog was written by the R&D center team. For further information about the grant, contact the program officer: Dr. Meredith Larson.