MySkillsLab educator study reports on Multiple Measures remediation program at Stanly Community College

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MySkillsLab educator study reports on Multiple Measures remediation program at Stanly Community College

Key Findings

  • To help implement a statewide Multiple Measures policy exempting certain students from placement testing, Stanly Community College instated a remediation module in its gateway English course in spring 2015 to help boost success and completion rates.
  • For the target group of Multiple Measures students with high school GPAs between 2.6–3.0, success rates have improved from 44 percent in the year pre-intervention, to 59 percent in the first year post-intervention, a difference of 15 percentage points.
  • Students in all cohorts are seeing improvement from pre-test to post-test. Overall, students improved three percentage points in fall 2015 and six percentage points in spring 2016.

School name
Stanly Community College, Albemarle, NC

Course name
Composition “Writing and Inquiry”

Course format
Hybrid; online

Course materials
MySkillsLab; Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum by Behrens and Rosen

Timeframe
Fall 2015, Spring 2016

Submitted by
John Bowman, English Department Chair

Setting

Stanly Community College (SCC) is a small, two-year community college serving over 10,000 students annually. About 62 percent are continuing education students and 38 percent curriculum students. SCC is one of 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Stanly Community College is an Achieving the Dream school, a Completion by Design school, and is also one of 30 schools participating in the American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project. For more information, visit www.stanly.edu/factsondemand.

About the Course

Writing and Inquiry is a one-semester, three-credit composition course, required for all students. It is offered in a hybrid or online course format, and students have the option to take it in 8, 12, or 16 weeks. As a hybrid class, students meet for 50 minutes, twice a week, and the rest of “class time” is spent completing work online. In fall 2015, the course enrollment was 260 students.

Challenges and Goals

The Multiple Measures placement policy, first implemented at Stanly in fall 2013, exempts recent high school graduates with an unweighted GPA of 2.6 and above from placement testing because they are deemed “college-ready” for gateway courses. Developmental courses in math and English are still offered at Stanly, but as of fall 2013, Multiple Measures students are not required to take them.

Any community college is faced with the inherent challenge of educating a wide range of students possessing different skill sets and ability levels. Soon after implementing Multiple Measures, we noticed that success rates and completion rates in the gateway courses were declining, especially in the subgroup of students with high school GPAs between 2.6–3.0. It became our goal to help this group of target students, and, by extension, all other students, be successful in gateway courses.

As part of a sub-grant received by five North Carolina community colleges from the Gates Foundation, Stanly developed and began implementation of a Multiple Measures remediation program, entitled “Let’s Go Racing,” in spring 2015. The racing-themed intervention module, inspired by Stanly’s proximity to the home of NASCAR in Charlotte, North Carolina, refreshes students on essential core concepts for gateway courses in math and/or English. The remediation module is placed inside the gateway course and is only worked on during the first two weeks of class, so it is not considered a co-requisite.

Implementation

Please note: the following narrative details the English portion of the remediation program. For further details on the math program, visit www.mymathlab.com/results.

Since the target student population at SCC was too small to offer a separate boot camp course, our college decided to include an intensive two-week remediation module directly in the gateway English course. This is what sets our program apart, as the other five schools in North Carolina who received the sub-grant are making their interventions optional to students with high school GPAs of 3.0 and higher. We determined that it can’t hurt for all levels of students to brush up on basic skills, so all students in the gateway course participate, regardless of their high school GPA. Students do not have to pay an additional fee or attend extra class time.

We constructed the remediation module in MySkillsLab to allow instructors to be relatively hands-off. However, we do want to make sure instructors have access to MySkillsLab in order to view and monitor students’ work, and especially to make sure students are completing enough work. Because we need to ensure the module is standardized across all sections, instructors cannot make changes within the module.

“Start Your Engines” is the first-step of the remediation module. Students take a 25-question diagnostic Path Builder from MySkillsLab which is designed to benchmark students’ knowledge of the prerequisite information for the course. Pre-requisite information includes 36 topics in MySkillsLab’s handbook module. To ensure the pre-test score is not influenced by any in-class instruction, the Path Builder is the first thing students do in the course. There is a link in Moodle (Stanly’s Learning Management System) that takes students directly to the MyLab. Students are briefly shown how to do this in class.

The Path Builder score provides both a baseline for the college’s data collection as well as a way for the student to measure his or her capacity for the basic course concepts. There is a two-hour time limit and one attempt is allowed. Each student’s Path Builder results indicate topics mastered and not yet mastered out of a total of 36.

The “Pit Stops” are clustered into the second step of the remediation module. The pit stops refer to the topics students do not master in MySkillsLab based on their Path Builder results. Working through these topics in MySkillsLab provides an opportunity for students to rehearse any concepts that may have been forgotten or missed in prerequisite courses. Students do not get credit for working on the topic-level pit stops; however, they are incentivized to do so because the Mastery Check post-test counts for five percent of the course grade. We tell students to engage with the topics they need help with. Even if students achieve an 80 percent or higher on the Path Builder, we still encourage them to review in the same way. All work on the “pit stop” topics are completed outside of class time during the first two weeks of class.

“Winner’s Circle” is the third and final step of our remediation module. The module is completed with a 25-question Mastery Check post-test in MySkillsLab. The topics covered on the post-test are identical to those on the pre-test, but the questions are different. This is taken at the end of the second week of class.

Assessments

  • 5% Mastery Check post-assessment (consistent in all gateway courses)
  • Other assessments vary across sections

Results and Data

We are thrilled to be seeing successful results and improvement in all cohorts, not just Multiple Measures students. Figure 1 shows average pre- and post-test scores in fall 2015 and spring 2016 for developmental students (those who completed developmental coursework prior to their gateway course), placed students (those who took the placement test and placed directly into the gateway course), and Multiple Measures students with high school GPAs 2.6 to 3.0, and Multiple Measures students with high school GPAs 3.0 and higher.

The improvement from pre- to post-test outcomes in the course (Figure 2) has given us anecdotal evidence that students are retaining and using the grammar lessons in the course itself. While this connection is hard to demonstrate with datait is, after all, a matter of recall during the use of the information, such as when students are writing papersstudents have informally reported the lessons have refreshed their understanding of these core grammatical concepts. As such, it could be hypothesized that the formal presentation of these materials at the start of the class helps to set the tone for the level of work required and encourages students to carefully think about how they use grammar in their coursework. While some students already give attention to this detail, the deliberate signals sent by the deployment of the “Let’s Go Racing” program ensure that all students in the program understand the formality of language required in the composition course.

Average pre-test and post-test scores in fall 2015 and spring 2016

MySkillsLab_StanlyCC_Figure1

Figure 1. Average Pre-test and Post-test Scores; Fall 2015: Developmental Students (n=61); Placed Students (n=111), Multiple Measures Students with High School GPA 2.6 to 3.0 (n=28); Multiple Measures Students with High School GPA 3.0 and Higher (n=60); Spring 2016: Developmental Students (n=45); Placed Students (n=67); Multiple Measures Students with High School GPA 2.6 to 3.0 (n=4); Multiple Measures Students with High School GPA 3.0 and Higher (n=19)

Average pre-test and post-test scores for all students

Figure 2. Average Pre-test and Post-test Scores for All Students; Fall 2015 (n=260), Spring 2016 (n=135)

Year-long success and completion rates for target group

Figure 3. Success Rates Pre-intervention Spring 2014-Fall 2014 (n=26) and Post-intervention, Spring 2015-Fall 2015 (n=33); Completion Rates Pre-intervention Spring 2014-Fall 2014 (n=36) and Post-intervention, Spring 2015-Fall 2015 (n=35)

Looking at data from the year before and after the implementation of the remediation module (Figure 3), we are seeing an uptick in both success rates and completion rates pre-intervention (spring 2014 and fall 2014) and post-intervention (spring 2015 and fall 2015). Success rates are calculated by the percent of students receiving a letter grade of A, B, or C; completion rates are calculated by the percent of students who completed the course with a letter grade of A, B, C, or D; and does not include those who dropped, failed, or withdrew. We will continue to measure success and completion rates. 

The Student Experience

We are getting solid participation rates with our Multiple Measures remediation module. Students say the program is helpful, builds their confidence, and is a good use of their time. They can look back to the module to refresh their memory when they need to later in the semester. At the end of each term, we survey students to capture their feedback on the program. Here are some selected quotes:

  • “I believe the Pit Stops were a good use of my time. They helped trigger some of the things I had been taught in high school and had forgotten.”
  • “I think it [Start Your Engines quiz] is a great way to show how prepared a student is for the course.” 
  • “The Pit Stops were very helpful in making sure each student covers what they’ve missed in order to succeed in the class without going over what they already know in order to make the most of their time.” 

One challenge we have faced is getting students to work on the topics. Since they are not required, and since the Mastery Check is only worth five percent of the final course grade, some students still do not do the work, even though we push them to complete it.

Conclusion

We want to make sure data are consistent for the term of the grant, so we will not be changing anything about our program through December 2016. We may consider changing our implementation in January 2017, after the grant has concluded.  

Data suggest that the scalable system that Stanly uses addresses success and completion rate issues in gateway courses, thereby efficiently leveling the playing field from the outset. Our implementation could easily translate to a boot camp or bridge program. We are happy to share our success and hope other schools can benefit from learning about our program.

 

To learn about the Quantitative Literacy portion of the Multiple Measures/Let’s Go Racing program, read the Math counterpart to this educator study.

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