The efficacy of learning communities in assisting developmental students in achieving graduation and accumulation of credit hours in a southern metropolitan community college (Ashley 2012)
Ashley, W. (2012). The efficacy of learning communities in assisting developmental students in achieving graduation and accumulation of credit hours in a southern metropolitan community college (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3522188)
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- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of learning communities on college credits earned and the completion of a college degree at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi.
- The study used school records to compare a treatment group of developmental education students who were living on campus and assigned to a learning community with a comparison group of students who lived off campus and did not participate in a learning community.
- The study found no significant differences in outcomes between the treatment and comparison groups.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not control for preexisting differences between the treatment and comparison groups. This means we would not be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to learning communities. However, the study found no statistically significant effects.
Features of Learning Communities
Students living in residence halls were assigned to learning communities based on their room assignments. In addition to taking developmental courses, students participating in learning communities attended a semester-long course that included study sessions and academic and career guidance.
Features of the Study
Study participants were first-time, full-time students who had completed developmental courses and had an American College Test score of less than 18, or a Scholastic Achievement Test score of less than 870. Students who chose to live in a residence hall (and were therefore assigned to a learning community) comprised the treatment group, while those who chose to live off-campus (and were therefore not assigned to a learning community) comprised the comparison group. Using school records, the author followed a cohort from fall 2006 through spring 2010 and compared the outcomes of the treatment and comparison students.
- The study found no statistically significant difference in the number of credits earned between the treatment and comparison groups and did not test for a statistically significant difference in degree completion after four years.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Assignment to the treatment group was based on residential choice—students living in a residence hall formed the treatment group, and students living off campus made up the comparison group. On- and off-campus students could differ in ways other than their participation in learning communities that also might influence their later academic achievement and persistence. For example, on-campus students could have had lower previous academic achievement than off-campus students and therefore sought the support found in an on-campus setting; or off-campus students might be more confident about their abilities and therefore avoid the on-campus residential setting. The author did not include controls for students’ characteristics in the analysis, so any differences in outcomes between the groups, or lack thereof, could reflect preexisting differences between the groups being compared and not impacts of the program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not control for preexisting differences between students in the treatment and comparison groups. This means we would not be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to learning communities. However, the study found no statistically significant effects.