Implementing the Corequisite Model of Developmental Mathematics Instruction at a Community College

Beamer, Zachary, Curriculum and Instruction - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Garofalo, Joe, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia

Many students enter higher education with poor preparation for college mathematics courses. Often these students are placed through high-stakes placement testing into developmental mathematics courses that do not bear credit towards graduation. However, only a small minority of students who begin in developmental mathematics ever succeed in a college-level mathematics course. Recent scholarship estimating the impacts of developmental placement and coursework has cast doubt on the effectiveness of many remediation practices. Such scholarship has prompted major reform efforts across the nation, led by educational administrators as well as state legislators, particularly at the nation’s community colleges.

One of these reforms that has seen dramatic impacts on several measures of student success is the practice of corequisite remediation. Traditional remediation practices require underprepared students to take foundational courses, often pre-algebra and algebra. These courses must be completed as a prerequisite to enrolling in a college mathematics course. By contrast, the corequisite instructional model places marginally prepared students directly into introductory-level college mathematics courses. These students receive just-in-time remediation through a required supplemental support course. Some states that have moved towards corequisite models of developmental education have seen astonishing improvements to student success. The rates of developmentally-placed students completing college-level mathematics have in several instances increased from 20% to 60% under the new corequisite model. These results have prompted systems of community colleges, including those of Virginia, to reduce traditional developmental offerings in favor of corequisite models.

The present research study employed qualitative methods to explore corequisite reforms at one community college and the context in which they were implemented. The study used data from interviews with faculty, staff, and administrators, classroom observations with two full-time instructors, documents, and student surveys. The four research questions explored (1) practitioners’ goals and expectations for corequisite reforms, (2) the design details of the support course, (3) the instructional practices in the support course, and (4) student responses to the support course. Findings from interviews with practitioners revealed that, while a previous set of reforms had been unsuccessful, they nevertheless offered insights into the conditions under which current reforms would be successful. That is, corequisite remediation needed to address flawed placement measures, deliver relevant curriculum, and incorporate instructional methods that address gaps in student’s understanding.

The two sections of corequisite courses observed in this research supported a transfer-level liberal arts course in Quantitative Reasoning. Observations revealed how instructors employed a combination of direct instruction, guided practice, and assignment support. Because the corequisite support class had no fixed curriculum itself, instructors had to gather information from a variety of sources to decide upon how to remediate their students. Despite this challenge, the instructors were able to target remediation to the individual needs of students, be they gaps in content or non-academic factors creating barriers to student success. Following preferences of students and insights from faculty, instruction tended to focus on credit-level content. Instructors discussed remedial topics in arithmetic and algebra only when needed and often within applied contexts. Students largely viewed the combination of additional instruction, practice, and help with graded assignments as beneficial. Thanks to the help of this course, students in the corequisite support class performed at similar levels to their peers who directly placed into the same course but did not receive support.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
corequisite, remediation, mathematics, developmental, community college, instruction, reform, quantitative reasoning
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