WWC review of this study

Learning communities for students in developmental reading: An impact study at Hillsborough Community College.

Weiss, M. J., Visher, M. G., & Wathington, M. (2010). New York: MDRC. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED510961

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    1,071
     Students
    , grade
    PS

Reviewed: November 2014

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Academic achievement outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

College students;
832 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
2
More Outcomes

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

First semester postprogram

College students;
591 students

N/A

N/A

No

-2
 
 
Show Supplemental Findings

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
344 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
488 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Proportion of students earning at least a C average

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

First semester postprogram

Male;
237 students

N/A

N/A

No

--
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;
1,071 students

N/A

N/A

No

-1
 
 
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Female;
609 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Registered for courses

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Program semester

Male;
462 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;
1,071 students

5.30

4.90

No

 
 
3
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Male;
462 students

5.00

4.20

No

--

Regular credits earned

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Female;
609 students

5.60

5.40

No

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

Completed college preparatory reading

Linked Learning Communities vs. Business as usual

Program semester

College students;
1,071 students

N/A

N/A

No

 
 
1
More Outcomes
Show Supplemental Findings

Completed college preparatory reading

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Male;
462 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Completed college preparatory reading

Linked Learning Communities vs. business as usual

Cumulative

Female;
609 students

N/A

N/A

No

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 57%
    Male: 43%
  • Race
    Black
    37%
    White
    25%
  • Ethnicity
    Hispanic
    32%
    Not Hispanic
    68%

  • Urban
    • B
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    Florida

Setting

The study took place at Hillsborough Community College (HCC), a large, urban community college in Tampa Bay, FL. The HCC has five campuses; three (Brandon, Dale Mabry, and Ybor City) participated in the Learning Communities Demonstration.

Study sample

To participate in the learning communities study at Hillsborough, students had to meet all of the following eligibility criteria: 1) at least 18 years old; 2) first-time students; and 3) placed into developmental reading—either College Preparatory Reading 1 or College Preparatory Reading 2 (i.e., one or two levels below college level). This level of placement was determined by scores on a state-mandated placement test. Students who were eligible were given the opportunity to participate in the study (participation was voluntary). Randomization was done at the student level. At the start of the study, 1,071 students were eligible to participate in the study; 709 were randomly assigned to the intervention group and 362 to the comparison group. Among students in the sample, 57% were female. Thirty-seven percent were Black, 32% were Hispanic, and 25% were White. Seventy percent of the students were between 17 and 20 years old at the start of the study, 81% reported having no children, 16% indicated that their household was receiving government benefits (such as food stamps or Supplemental Security Income), 25% indicated that they were receiving financial aid, 56% reported being currently employed, and 29% reported speaking a language other than English in their home.

Intervention Group

Students registered in a learning community that linked a College Success course with either College Preparatory Reading 1 or College Preparatory Reading 2, depending on how the student was placed. Both reading courses emphasized vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and writing to improve literacy development. The College Success course concentrated on a variety of academic and personal subjects, such as educational goals, planning, time management, study skills, health concerns, and career counseling. Students were also informed about other academic resources available to them. Students enrolled in the reading and College Success courses as a pair, creating the learning communities where the same small groups (cohorts) of students took the two linked courses together. Notably, however, the study authors reported that the linking of the curricula across the two courses did not occur until the study’s final semester.

Comparison Group

Students assigned to the comparison group enrolled in any other classes for which they were eligible or that were required, and they could receive the college’s standard services. All students who require one or more developmental courses must enroll in a College Success course; therefore, comparison group students had the option of enrolling in the course as well. However, they were not required to enroll immediately

Outcome descriptions

Researchers reported outcomes at three points in time: the program semester (i.e., the semester during which students were enrolled in a learning community), the first semester after the program, and the second semester after the program. Participation in the learning communities began in fall 2007, spring 2008, and fall 2008. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.

Support for implementation

The learning community model was already in existence at Hillsborough when the study started. According to the study authors, HCC supported a “paid coordinator who managed the program, strong support from college leadership, solid buy-in from faculty, and a collaborative relationship between academic and student affairs divisions.” The paid coordinator’s work from the first semester of implementation included organization of events and meetings for faculty development (e.g., strategies for active, collaborative learning and curricular integration), coordination of workshops and monthly meetings, and oversight of random assignment activities.

 

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