Course Placement, Course Modality, and Student Success: Developmental Mathematics at a Public Two-Year College in the Northeast



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Changing how we present information to students has been standard discourse from as early as the 5th century BC, when Quintilian stated that teachers needed to reach students with different learning styles at different points in their education (Corno, 2008). There are varied methods for reaching students with learning disabilities, language or cultural differences, and content-related struggles, but no singular method has proven to be the “best” choice for all learners. This research study examined archival data of developmental mathematics students from fall 2015 through spring 2019 at Northampton Community College (N.C.C.).
Purpose The purposes of this journal-ready dissertation were to look for differences in student success and persistence in developmental mathematics based on three factors: placement, students’ perceptions of their motivation and anxiety, and the course modality they chose. The first purpose was to analyze the success and persistence of students in mathematics, based on the college’s placement policy of utilizing high school transcripts and ACCUPLACER exam. The second purpose was to determine if developmental students’ perceptions of their motivation and anxiety levels impacted their final course grade or persistence in mathematics at the college. Finally, the third purpose was to examine the differences between final exam grades, final course grades, and persistence to the next mathematics courses at the college, based on developmental mathematics course modality. The first and third research study involved an analysis of four years of data from a suburban community college in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The second study involved the survey of developmental mathematics students in the spring of 2019.
Method This study was a causal-comparative research design using archival data from Northampton Community College Institutional Review Board for fall 2015 through spring 2019 school years. Statistical data were analyzed to determine whether differences existed in final exams, final course grades, persistence in mathematics, and motivation and anxiety levels for students enrolled in developmental mathematics in either emporium, face-to-face, or online courses during this timeframe.
Findings In the first study, chi-square analysis revealed that placement by high school transcripts appeared to result in higher success and persistence in mathematics for students. The second study examined how students’ perceptions of their intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and anxiety levels affected their course grades in these courses, based on their modality using MANOVA and t-test analysis. Regardless of student success or course modality, students who responded to the survey were more worried and extrinsically motivated than had negative affection reactions (NAR) or were intrinsically motivated. In the third study, chi-square analysis revealed that, overall, students in emporium and face-to-face courses performed equally as well, but online students struggled more with final course grades and persistence in mathematics at the college. The conclusion of this journal-style dissertation includes connections with literature and theoretical frameworks and suggestions for practice and future research.



Mathematics, Education, Community College, Education, Mathematics