This month we’re moving away from the deeper thought of student ownership of learning and equity towards a structural effort to support student success. Sticking with Karen’s June theme of Revolution, let’s look at the third stanza:
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
The corequisite concept is a real solution. (We think, but would like to get to “we know.” More on that later). And yes, we’d all love to see the plan, so we can adjust it to fit our local environment. Colleagues across the country have developed and shared evidence of the concept’s effectiveness. Whatever research you’ve completed, conference sessions you’ve attended, and/or webinars you’ve participated in, the challenge remains: local implementation and continuous improvement.
If you want to implement a corequisite model, these are good questions to begin with:
- Cohort or Co-mingle? And does co-mingle include paired sections or random co-mingling?
- Two instructors or one? Do we have the staffing capacity? What happens to our developmental level only adjunct faculty? If one, can we afford an embedded tutor?
- Is the support course, credit or non-credit? Should it include student success skills? If so, how do we teach/train our math faculty to incorporate the concepts? What other training do we need to create and implement? How do we make team teaching work? How many credits is the support course? Will financial aid cover it?
- What’s our grading scheme? Can a student pass the support course and not the gateway course? What about the other way around?
- How do we schedule these, back-to-back in a block, 4 days/week? Will students come 4/days/week? What about at night? How do we tie the two courses together, on the schedule, in our LMS? How do we communicate our intentions with student affairs?
- How will the students know they are eligible? How do we communicate the option to students so they know what to expect? Six to eight hours of in-class math a week, will they sign up for that? Will they meet the outside of class time expectations? If they already are anxious about math, how do we encourage them this is still a good option for them? What happens if they fail? Six to eight credits of F will devastate their student academic performance (GPA and credits earned ratio).
That’s the first round of questions.
What follows is a summary of one institution’s attempt to tackle these questions and provide corequisite opportunities for students in the College Algebra for Business and Liberal Arts pathways. Before going further I’m providing context about our college as the local environment plays a role in the process. We are a multi-campus institution that operates five brick and mortar campuses and multiple centers across the greater Tucson-area. We do not have a state mandate to offer corequisites (see CA, TN, TX, and others), just local pressure to fix the problem. We are tied to Complete College America for our guided pathway efforts and they promote corequisites as a pillar of guided pathways. Historically, a vast majority of students (85%) were placed into one of four algebra-focused developmental courses designed to prepare students for success in College Algebra. Recently the division has created and scheduled 3 clear gateway math pathways: Liberal Arts Math, STEM-Precalculus, and College Algebra for Business.
We started with the end in mind, our end at least -- more students successfully completing gateway math courses. The historic challenge, under performance of students placed into multiple tiers of developmental mathematics, was our norm. Students were not getting to the gateway course, let alone passing the gateway course. Our solution included multiple measures placement and math pathways. We juggled multiple initiatives as we created our corequisite offerings.
The college’s first attempt occurred at our Desert Vista campus, where faculty were immersed in the redesign of developmental education. The writing faculty had already piloted and scaled their version of a corequisite at this campus and were instrumental in scaling the corequisite writing course across all campuses. Mathematics was coming off a not so successful attempt at the emporium model and was looking for other opportunities to move the needle on student success to and through gateway mathematics. Research consisted of attending multiple conferences including AMATYC, NADE (now NOSS), CADE, and the League for Innovation’s Innovation conference. Faculty also reached out to colleagues at other institutions to understand the challenges and barriers of successfully implementing a corequisite model. With a plan in place, in fall 2017, the college offered two sections of corequisite College Algebra. The two courses were a scaled down version of our Intermediate Algebra (2 credits instead of 3) and our 4 credit College Algebra. The courses were co-mingled. Our definition of co-mingle enrolls 30 students in College Algebra, approximately half of which were also attending the same Intermediate Algebra support course. Success rates for both populations were above our college-wide average course success rate. It worked, but...
The next challenge -- bring this to scale in two math pathways at five campuses, where faculty were skeptical of the concept and not invested in the research and planning. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
In 2018-19, the Desert Vista campus continued to offer and run multiple sections of the College Algebra corequisite and continued to show success. Meanwhile, a number of student-centered faculty from across the district reviewed the relevant literature and prepared to offer sections of corequisites in Liberal Arts math and College Algebra. This was our phase two. Faculty worked the scaffolding of curriculum, grading schemes, LMS design, and team teaching. Administrators helped with internal technical challenges and communication with student affairs. During phase two, we also recognized the need to expand our knowledge of full scale corequisite implementation, so we consulted with the Dana Center.
The college offered one section of each course at all five campuses in fall 2019. The results were mixed. The Liberal Arts math corequisite courses were very successful, based on student success measures, but faculty recognized the need for significant changes to the support course curriculum (a scaled-down elementary algebra). The College Algebra corequisite courses were not as successful, at scale, yet the success rate of the under-prepared students still beat the likelihood of success in two free standing courses.
After a mid-February mini-retreat to discuss all things corequisite, we were headed towards continuous improvement projects in curriculum (adding student success activities to the support courses), professional learning activities for faculty, and adjustments to an online option in the Liberal Arts pathway. We had increased our offerings at each campus and online for fall 2020.
Then COVID19. Our real solution just hit a very real problem.
We scrambled like all of you, transitioning face-to-face courses to online synchronous options within a week. Communication was a challenge. The digital divide shined a bright light on equity issues in our community. Our W rates increased with a free tuition clause, as did our incompletes. Our corequisites were successful overall, by past standards. But the past had proctored tests.
There are much greater challenges in the world as a result of COVID19, so we’ll put an asterisk on our data for spring 2020, learn from the experience, and work to adjust our fall efforts to function in the online environment (we’re not going back to campus just yet).
The journey has been challenging and rewarding. It is not yet over. With an eye to improving student success, we will continue to grow and develop our corequisite program.