Absence of conflict of interest.
Oldham, T. M. (2017). The impact of a cohort-based learning model on student success within vocational technical certificates at a community college (Doctoral dissertation, Northeastern University). Retrieved from https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:cj82pw09w/fulltext.pdf
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of a cohort-based learning model within a certificate program at a community college on the students’ education completion rate.
- Using community college data, the study used a nonexperimental design to compare students in the cohort-based learning model with those in the traditional program.
- The author found a statistically significant association between the cohort-learning model and education completion rates where students in the cohort model were more likely to complete the program than students in the traditional model.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not include sufficient control variables. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the cohort-based learning model; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Cohort-Based Learning Model
Features of the Intervention
The cohort-learning model included the following cohort design elements of: block scheduling, students in each cohort taking all classes together, limited faculty teaching the cohort, peer and faculty supports in place, and active job placement services upon program completion. The setting for the study was a public community college in upstate New York where students were enrolled in a Precision Machining vocational technical certificate program using a 22-week instructional model with a cohort model or in a traditional "cafeteria style" non-cohort model.
Features of the Study
The population for this study included students who were enrolled in a vocational technical certificate program at a community college. The author assessed the association between the program type (traditional or cohort) and the completion rate (pass versus no pass) using a nonexperimental design. The analysis sample included 69 in the treatment group and 44 in the traditional (comparison) group.
Education and skills gain
- In comparing the traditional versus cohort model for the precision machining certificate program, the study found that students in the cohort model were 3.6 times more likely to complete the program than students in the traditional non-cohort model, and the result was statistically significant.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The author did not include sufficient control variables such as a pre-intervention measure of education and training or a degree of financial disadvantage. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the cohort-based learning model—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. The author also notes that this is a retrospective study.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not include sufficient control variables to account for differences between the treatment and comparison groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the cohort-based learning model; other factors are likely to have contributed.