Excerpts from a Cuyahoga Community College Document entitled “Two Course Learning Community: Developmental Math and On Course” submitted by Donna McNatt, Faculty, Mathematics

Program Description

The math learning community attempts to increase students’ success by replacing their expectation that they cannot “do math” with the belief that they can pass their developmental courses and progress to college level study.   According to faculty who teach these courses, students who enroll in developmental math are handicapped less by their actual ability to learn the material than they are by the expectation that it is beyond their grasp.  Because they do not believe they can learn the material, they do not really try.  Under these circumstances, failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To help students overcome these obstacles, the math learning community combines instruction in mathematics with material on personal responsibility and study skills.  Students who participate in this intervention enroll in two courses: MATH 0850 and MATH 0950. In MATH 0850, students are taught to assume responsibility for their success and failures.  Using the “On Course” curriculum developed by Skip Downing, students are taught to see themselves, not as victims, but as creators.  They are taught to set goals, to manage their time, and to set priorities.  The math 0950 course instructs them in the concepts of beginning algebra.  The idea is that, by helping students to take responsibility for their actions and to obtain study skills, they will become more successful in their developmental math courses, and beyond. […]

Evaluation Design

To determine whether these interventions have had an impact on students’ success, an evaluation has now been conducted.  This evaluation has compared the performance of students enrolled in these interventions to a randomly selected, matched sample of students who were enrolled in MATH 0950 on each of these campuses during semesters in which the intervention was offered.  In selecting this sample, students were matched on age, GPA as of the start of the semester, and hours earned as of the start of the semester. […] 

Evaluation Results

[…] Looking at data on students enrolled in fall 2007, 54.4% of the students who enrolled in the learning community completed MATH 0950 with a grade of C or better. By contrast, 42.6% of those in the comparison group successfully completed this course.  The fall-to-spring persistence rate for students in the fall 2007 cohort was 75.5% (74 out of 98).  This compares to a rate of 66.0% (62 out of 94) for students in the comparison group. […]

Fall, 2007 Students taking
Math 950 without Math 850 (On Course Class) N=94
Students taking
Math 950 with Math 850 (On Course Class) N=98
for students taking Math 850 (On Course Class)
Passing Grades
of A-C
42.6% 54.4% +11.8%
66.0% 75.5% +9.5%


Survey Results

In addition to the “hard data” on students’ academic performance, a survey was also administered to students who participated in the MATH 0950 learning communities during fall 2007.  This survey sought to find out whether the on-course material covered in MATH 0850 had any effect on students’ confidence that they could succeed in their math courses. Questions on this survey attempted to determine whether the course as a whole had an effect on students’ sense of confidence.  Questions also sought to determine the impact that specific course content had on students’ confidence in mathematics. 

Results of this analysis were quite positive.  Of the 23 students who responded to the questionnaire, 91% (21 students) said that they were somewhat or much more positive about their chances of succeeding in math than they were at the beginning of the semester. Students were also quite positive in their opinions on the impact that specific course content will have on their ability to succeed.  The survey contained 8 items designed to find out whether students felt that a particular content area was likely or unlikely to affect their success in math.  Students who responded to these items overwhelmingly felt that these content areas will help them to succeed in their math courses.  The percentage of students who felt that these content areas would likely or very likely affect their math success ranged from 65% to 100%, with the percentage exceeding 90% in six of the eight areas. […]