WWC review of this study

Learning communities for students in developmental English: Impact studies at Merced College and the Community College of Baltimore County.

Weissman, E., Cullinan, D., Cerna, O., Safran, S., & Richman, P. (2012). New York: MDRC. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED529251

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,424
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: November 2014

No statistically significant positive
findings
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Access and enrollment outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

College students: Baltimore;
1,083 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
0
More Outcomes

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

College students: Merced;
1,424 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
0
Show Supplemental Findings

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
636 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
447 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
730 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
694 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. Business as usual

Cumulative

College students: Baltimore;
1,424 students

5.90

6.00

No

-1
 
 
More Outcomes

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. Business as usual

Cumulative

College students: Merced;
1,083 students

4.90

5.10

No

-1
 
 
Progress in developmental education outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. Business as usual

Cumulative

College students: Merced;
1,424 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
0
More Outcomes

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. Business as usual

Cumulative

College students: Baltimore;
1,083 students

N/A

N/A

No

-2
 
 
Show Supplemental Findings

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Female;
730 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Male;
694 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Male;
447 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Passed college English

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Female;
636 students

N/A

N/A

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 53%
    Male: 47%

  • Rural, Urban
    • B
    • A
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • I
    • H
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • P
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • V
    • U
    • T
    • W
    • X
    • Z
    • Y
    • a
    • h
    • i
    • b
    • d
    • e
    • f
    • c
    • g
    • j
    • k
    • l
    • m
    • n
    • o
    • p
    • q
    • r
    • s
    • t
    • u
    • x
    • w
    • y

    California, Maryland
  • Race
    Other or unknown
    76%
    White
    24%

Setting

The study took place at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), a community college located in Baltimore, MD, that has three campuses and three extension centers in suburban Maryland. Two campuses of CCBC participated in the Learning Communities Demonstration: Catonsville and Essex.

Study sample

All new and returning students at CCBC were eligible to be included in the Learning Communities Demonstration study sample if they had placed into a developmental English course (either reading or writing) that was one level below college-level English (resources were directed toward those students who had the highest chance of getting to college level). This level of placement was determined by Accuplacer test scores. Students also had to be available for class during the times that the learning community classes were offered. The study initially enrolled students who were 18 or older, but later enrolled students under 18 with parental consent. Students who were eligible were given the opportunity to participate in the study. Randomization was done at the student level. Across four semesters, 1,083 students were eligible to participate; 650 were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 433 to the comparison group. Demographically, 59% of the sample were female, 67% were non-White (predominately Black), and 77% were between 17 and 20 years old. Furthermore, 16% reported having at least one child, 17% indicated that their household was receiving government benefits (such as food stamps or Supplemental Security Income), 46% indicated that they were receiving financial aid, 53% reported being currently employed, and 8% reported speaking a language other than English in their home.

Intervention Group

The CCBC learning communities were organized around a developmental English course (either reading or writing). Students coenrolled in the developmental English course; a collegelevel content course (that was selected from a range of subject areas, such as sociology, psychology, or computer information); and a master learner session. The master learner session lasted for 1 hour per week and was a non-credit-bearing class that provided support and guidance as students worked through their linked courses. The session concentrated on helping students make connections between the content from the linked courses in each learning community and was designed to reinforce the instruction from those courses.

Comparison Group

Students assigned to the comparison group were allowed to enroll in any other classes for which they were eligible or that were required, and they could receive the college’s standard services. Many students in the comparison group enrolled in a credit-bearing student success course that was mandatory for all developmental reading students and that was, according to the study authors, similar in many respects to the master learner session taken by the learning community students in the intervention group.

Outcome descriptions

Researchers reported outcomes at two points in time: the program semester (i.e., the semester in which students were enrolled in a learning community) and the first semester after the program. At CCBC, participation in the learning communities began in spring 2008, fall 2008, spring 2009, and fall 2009. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

According to the study authors, support for the learning communities provided by CCBC included: a cross-campus, lead program coordinator; support from a seasoned senior administrator; and an experienced learning community coordinator at each campus. Program support for faculty included professional development workshops on curricular integration and syllabi development. Faculty received a stipend of $750 or received a course load reduction equivalent to one credit hour for every learning community taught. Faculty who created new learning communities received an additional one-time stipend of $500 and $1,000, depending upon the degree of course integration. Faculty who taught master learner sessions received stipends of $2,250 or course load reductions of three credit hours.

 

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