Moore, L.H. (2000). A mixed-method approach to evaluating learning communities for underprepared community college students: The Integrated Studies Communities at Parkland College (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 9971142)
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Integrated Studies Community (ISC) at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, on credit hours earned, course completion, and persistence during the 1998–1999 academic year.
- The study used a matched comparison group design to compare ISC participants with nonparticipants. Data sources included administrative data from Parkland College and interview and survey data.
- This study found that ISC students earned significantly more credit hours than comparison students.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not include sufficient controls in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ISC. Other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Integrated Studies Community (ISC) at Parkland College
Features of the Intervention
The ISC at Parkland College was a coordinated studies learning community model that targeted underprepared students who lacked college-level skills in reading, writing, or mathematics and were considered to be academically at risk. The study had two parts: a pilot study in spring 1998 and the full implementation in fall 1998 and spring 1999. In the pilot study, the ISC model (or ISC II) integrated four three-credit hour classes: Critical Comprehension Skills (CCS) 098, English 098 or 099, Literature 120, and Orientation 101. Pilot study participants included all students enrolled in the spring 1998 ISC. In the full implementation study, the ISC II model continued to apply to the spring 1998 ISC participants. The third phase of ISC (or ISC III) consisted of four integrated courses: English 099, Math 094, Psychology 101, and CCS 099. Participants in the full implementation included students who enrolled in the second and third phases of ISC (ISC II and ISC III). In both ISC phases, study participants met regularly (three days each week) with their instructors.
Features of the Study
The study used a matched comparison group design to compare ISC participants with nonparticipants. Students in the comparison group were enrolled in traditional, nonlearning community versions of the developmental reading courses that were part of the learning community. The study used multivariate regressions and t-tests of mean differences to estimate impacts on credit hours. The author did not conduct statistical tests for course completion or persistence outcomes.
- Overall, ISC students earned 1.5 more credit hours than comparison students. Students in ISC III earned 3.5 more credit hours than those in the CCS 099 comparison group. These differences were statistically significant.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study used a matched comparison group design to compare ISC participants with nonparticipants. However, for only one eligible outcome did the author conduct any statistical tests: credit hours earned. The author did not conduct statistical tests for the other two eligible outcomes: course completion and persistence. The author estimated impacts on credit hours, controlling for age, race, pre-intervention reading achievement, and gender. The regression model did not control for a measure of participant’s degree of financial disadvantage. This raises the concern that pre-existing differences between the groups, rather than ISC, could account for the observed differences in outcomes between treatment and comparison students.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not include sufficient controls in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ISC. Other factors are likely to have contributed.