Greater Texas Foundation grant funds study into community college student success
A team led by Taylor Acee, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University, has received a $315,000 grant from the Greater Texas Foundation to investigate the effects of learning frameworks courses on student academic achievement, persistence and college completion outcomes in Texas public community colleges.
Acee will serve as principal investigator (PI) on the research project, which also includes Russ Hodges (co-PI), an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Eric Paulson, a professor in the Graduate College (co-PI); and Jim Van Overschelde, an associate professor in the Office of Educator Preparation (co-PI).
Learning frameworks courses—also known as "learning to learn," "learning strategies" or "strategic learning" courses—teach students about the psychology of learning and how to apply that knowledge to their own studies. They differ from basic study skill and orientation courses in that they deliver college-level content in psychological theories of learning and are recognized as such by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
"Our study will examine the effects of learning frameworks courses in community colleges," Acee said. "We'll look to see if these courses have effects on student grade point averages and semester-to-semester persistence. We'll also see if they contribute to the attainment of a certificate, a credential, a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. We want to see if they're helping with those goals.
"We're also interested in the effects of the learning frameworks courses—if they benefit student groups differently," he said. "We're looking at students of color, adult learners, first-generation students, socio-economic status and students with a history of low academic achievement. We want to see if these courses are serving those students well."
In 2000, when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved learning frameworks courses for state formula funding, only around 5% of community colleges offered these types of classes, Acee said. Since that time, the number of community colleges in Texas offering learning frameworks courses has grown to 90%, and many require the courses for all first-time college students.
"We plan to access the necessary data through the Texas Education Research Center, a state data repository that tracks students in Texas public educational institutions from pre-kindergarten through college graduation. We'll compare intervention groups of students who took learning frameworks courses to control groups of students who did not. To avoid apples to oranges comparisons, we will use statistical matching," Acee said. "In previous research, we've found that the course topics and curricular approaches used in learning frameworks courses across Texas community colleges vary. One part of this study will be to examine how those curricular approaches differ and how they relate to the effectiveness of the course. We'll examine those differences and see if they have any relation to student success."
The Greater Texas Foundation serves the residents and educational institutions of Texas by supporting initiatives that increase rates of postsecondary enrollment and completion for all Texas students, with a particular focus on students who may encounter barriers to postsecondary success.