Promising Practices in Developmental Education: The TX DEPCO Monograph

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Funded by the Higher Education Coordinating Board and under the management of The Education Institute at Texas State University, the Texas Developmental Education Professional Community Online (TX DEPCO) is proud to release to the public Promising Practices in Developmental Education.

This scholarly monograph is a selection from the TX DEPCO featured practitioners, who expanded their promising practices in terms of content and scholarly rigor for peer review. The printed version of Promising Practices debuted at CASP 2017 in Galveston this past October, but the archived version is available for free from the TEI website or here for immediate download: Promising Practices_TX DEPCO Monograph_2017.

Thank you again for all of the authors and readers involved in the TX DEPCO’s publishing cycle.

 

 

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The Many Legacies of Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein, Part 2 Tribute: Strategic Learning Assessment

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Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein

“If you see a student who finds it as hard as iron to study, it is because his studies are without system.” ~ Talmud, Ta’anit

In Part 1 of our tribute to Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein, we discussed her pioneering work on learning frameworks courses (Hodges & Acee, 2017). In Part 2, we examine Weinstein’s contributions to the development of strategic learning assessments.

Weinstein, senior author of the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI), assesses students’ use of learning strategies related to developing knowledge and skills, generating and sustaining motivation, and intentionally self-regulating thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to reach learning goals. Weinstein’s groundbreaking dissertation research on cognitive learning strategies (Weinstein, 1975), and her subsequent work with the U.S. Army and Department of Defense (Weinstein, 1978), helped to show that students’ could be taught to intentionally use learning strategies, and that learning strategies instruction could help students to create more meaningful and retrievable memories about the information they are trying to learn. This line of research led to the development of Weinstein’s Model of Strategic Learning (MSL; see Weinstein & Acee, 2013), which serves as the theoretical foundation of the LASSI.

The MSL highlights many of the factors that research has shown to be causally related to students’ academic success and amendable to change through educational intervention. The MSL organizes these factors under three major components: skill (knowing what to do and how to do it), will (wanting to do it), and self-regulation (actively monitoring and managing the learning process). The MSL emphasizes that students can intentionally use learning strategies related to their skill, will, and self-regulation to increase their chances of success in college and other postsecondary settings. The MSL also includes a fourth component, the academic environment. Although the academic environment is typically not under students’ direct control, it is important for them to develop knowledge about the academic environment (e.g., learning about available resources on campus and their teachers’ expectations) so they can be more strategic.

The LASSI measures students’ use of learning strategies related to their skill, will, and self-regulation, and it is intended for use with students in postsecondary educational and training environments (although other versions of the LASSI have been developed for use with students in high school and online learning environments). The LASSI is widely used across the United States and around the globe by over 3,000 institutions and is published in over 30 languages. The LASSI 3rd Edition has 10 scales and 60 items, 6 items per scale (Weinstein, Acee, & Palmer, 2016a). The LASSI scales include the following: Anxiety, Attitude, Concentration, Information Processing, Motivation, Selecting Main Ideas, Self-Testing, Test Strategies, Time Management, and Using Academic Resources (see Appendix for scale descriptions and example items). The LASSI 3rd Edition Manual (Weinstein, Palmer, & Acee, 2016b) provides information about the extensive development work that helped to establish the reliability and validity of the LASSI, and the procedures used to construct national norms.

Weinstein published the first edition of the LASSI in 1987 to help address increasing enrollments of students in postsecondary educational settings who were underprepared or at-risk of low performance. At that time, there were no strategic learning assessments that measured cognitive, metacognitive, motivation, and affective learning strategies. Weinstein needed such a measurement tool in order to provide students with feedback about their use of learning strategies and to measure their growth over time in response to strategic learning interventions, such as learning frameworks courses. Accordingly, the LASSI can be used to provide informative feedback to students, practitioners, and researchers about (a) students’ baseline status as a strategic learner, (b) which areas related to strategic learning to address in instruction for individual students and the class, or cohort, as a whole, (c) how students’ use of learning strategies changes over time, and (d) the effectiveness of interventions for students.

Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein’s significant contributions to learning strategies research, learning frameworks courses, and strategic learning assessments helped to shape research, policy, and practice in many disciplines, but especially in postsecondary developmental education and learning assistance. Her lasting legacy of student-centered support lives on through the work of her students and colleagues.

Authors

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Taylor Acee, Ph.D.

Dr. Taylor W. Acee is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Developmental Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in educational psychology at The University of Texas and his B.S. in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. His program of research is focused on cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and affective factors that contribute to and detract from student success in postsecondary education. In his research, Dr. Acee targets variables that are causative, account for a meaningful amount of the variation in student success, and are amendable to change through educational intervention. He is internationally known for his collaborative work on personal relevance interventions, academic boredom, and strategic learning assessments and interventions. His research activities have resulted in over 30 refereed publications, 5 funded research grants totaling over $800,000, and various other scholarly activities.

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Russ Hodges, Ed.D.

Dr. Russ Hodges is Associate Professor in the Graduate Program in Developmental Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. He earned his Ed.D. in developmental education from Grambling State University and his M.Ed. from University of Louisiana in Monroe. Dr. Hodges’ research focuses on postsecondary student success, postsecondary student success courses, interventions for students diagnosed with AD/HD, and demographic changes in higher education. The learning framework model that he co-developed serves as a curriculum model for many postsecondary learning framework courses throughout Texas and the nation. Dr. Hodges has held state and national leadership positions including president of the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) and chair of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA). He is an active scholar, having published three books, many journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers along with four research grants totaling just over 1 million dollars. He is also a frequent invited speaker for conferences for postsecondary faculty and staff development.  Dr. Hodges has received many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Academic Support Programs conference, and outstanding service awards from both CRLA and the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE).  In 2009, Dr. Hodges was named National Fellow for CLADEA—his field’s most prestigious honor. 

References

Hodges, R. & Acee, T. W. (2017, April 26). The many legacies of Dr. Claire Ellen Weinstein, part 1 tribute: Learning frameworks courses [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://depco.wp.txstate.edu/

Weinstein, C. E. (1975). Learning of elaboration strategies (Unpublished doctoral dissertation) University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.

Weinstein, C. E. (1978). Elaboration skills as a learning strategy. In H. F. O’Neil, Jr. (Ed.), Learning strategies (pp. 31-55). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Weinstein, C. E. & Acee, T. W. (2013). Helping college students become more strategic and self-regulated learners. In H. Bembenutty, T. J. Cleary, & A. Kitsantas (Eds.), Applications of self-regulated learning across diverse disciplines: A tribute to Barry J. Zimmerman (pp. 197-236). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Weinstein, C. E., Palmer, D. R., & Acee, T. W. (2016a). Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (3rd ed.). Clearwater, FL: H&H.

Weinstein, C. E., Palmer, D. R., & Acee, T. W. (2016b). LASSI User’s Manual: Learning and Study Strategies Third Edition. Clearwater, FL: H&H.

Appendix

LASSI 3rd Edition Scale Descriptions and Example Items

LASSI Scale Description of Scale Example Item
Anxiety Worry and nervousness about school and academic performance. “I feel very panicky when I take an important test.”
Attitude Attitudes and interest in college and succeeding academically. “I only study the subjects I like.”
Concentration Ability to direct and maintain attention on academic tasks. “My mind wanders a lot when I study.”
Information

Processing

Use of rehearsal, elaboration, and organizational strategies to learn new information. “I try to find relationships between what I am learning and what I already know.”
Motivation Self-discipline and willingness to exert effort and persist in college. “When work is difficult I either give up or study only the easy parts.”
Selecting Main

Ideas

Skill at identifying important information for further study. “I have difficulty identifying the important points in my reading.”
Self-Testing Use of reviewing and comprehension monitoring techniques to assess understanding. “I stop periodically while reading and mentally go over or review what was said.”
Test Strategies Use of strategies to prepare for and take examinations. “I have difficulty adapting my studying to different types of courses.”
Time

Management

Use of time management principles for academic tasks. “I find it hard to stick to a study schedule.”
Using Academic Resources Strategic use of academic resources commonly available at postsecondary institutions. “I am not comfortable asking for help from instructors in my courses.”

Note. The scale descriptions were adapted from Weinstein, Palmer, & Acee (2016b), with permission.

 

Overcoming Mathematics and Testing Anxiety with Research-Based Strategies

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Theresa Hoang and Darolyn Flaggs

Theresa Hoang is a Ph.D. student in the Developmental Education program at Texas State University with a specialization in developmental math.  Previously, she earned her M.A. from the same program with a concentration in literacy.  She has taught learning frameworks at the college level and mathematics at the high school, and she has assisted in teaching developmental reading and developmental mathematics at Texas State University.  Her research interests include motivation of underprepared students in higher education and social psychological interventions.

Darolyn Flaggs is a Ph.D. student in the Developmental Education Program at Texas State University with a specialization in Developmental Mathematics. She received her B.S. in Mathematics at Texas Southern University and her M.Ed. in Mathematics Education at Texas State University. Her research interests include studying historically underrepresented student populations within the mathematics setting and exploring variables affecting student’s persistence to degree completion. Ms. Flaggs has taught undergraduate mathematics courses, been involved in the revision of the developmental mathematics scope and sequence, and lesson plans, and worked with FOCUS and SLAC at Texas State University. She is currently working under the research mentorship of Dr. Taylor Acee in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

How does mathematics and testing anxiety affect your students?  As doctoral students teaching developmental mathematics for the first time, we quickly realized the extent to which mathematics and testing anxiety was hurting our students’ academic outcomes.  During office hours, students often self-proclaimed to having anxiety about test-taking and about mathematics in general.  While not all students explicitly told us about their worries, it was sometimes intuitively clear that they struggled with mathematics and testing anxiety.  These common occurrences led us to explore deeper into what was causing students to have feelings of anxiety and what could we do as mathematics educators to help our students in these situations.

While searching through the literature, we found an incredible useful journal article that we would like to share with you entitled “Anxiety and Cognition” and written by Maloney, Sattizahn, and Beilock (2004).  In this article, Maloney et al. (2014) described how mathematics and testing anxiety affected the brain; anxiety can cause maladaptive physical responses and negative thoughts, which can take up prefrontal cortical resources and working memory that could otherwise be used for mathematics.  To combat these effects in the brain, Maloney et al. (2014) identified key strategies across a plethora of anxiety research.  These primary strategies included expressive writing (Park, Ramirez, & Beilock, 2014), arousal reappraisal (Jamieson, Mendes, Blackstock, & Schmader, 2010), stereotype threat reappraisal (Johns, Schmader, & Martens, 2005), and breathing exercises (Brunye, Mahoney, Giles, Rapp, Taylor, & Kanarek, 2013).  While in-depth information about each strategy can be found in Maloney et al.’s (2014) article, the following list will provide brief descriptions of how to implement each strategy:

  • Expressive Writing: Immediately before students take an exam, ask students to write about their feelings about the upcoming exam for 10 minutes. The goal of this activity is for students to express their negative thoughts and worries before the exam so that during the exam, students can use their working memory to think about their math problems instead of their anxieties.
  • Arousal Reappraisal: Students who perform well on tests regardless of their anxiety tend to look at stress-inducing situations as a challenge instead of a threat. So, when students begin to feel their heart rate increasing or their body sweating because of a stress-inducing situation, encourage students to interpret those signs of arousal as normal physiological responses to a challenge and that these signs can actually help with performance rather than hurt it.
  • Stereotype Threat Reappraisal: This strategy is useful for groups of people, such as women or students of color, who may experience stereotype threat, which is “the fear of acting in such a way that confirms a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs” (Maloney et al., 2014, p. 408). Informing these students about the existence of stereotype threat and the possibility of anxiety arising from stereotype threat can help students assess why they feel anxious and perform better on exams.
  • Breathing Exercises: Encouraging students to engage in focused breathing exercises before exams, similar to the one found here, can increase student performance. By completing the breathing exercises before exams, students may be able to focus their attention better and free up cognitive resources to use during exams.

Over the past few decades, the role of developmental mathematics instructors have evolved; not only do instructors play a key role in facilitating the growth of student knowledge in mathematics, but effective instructors also address non-academic factors, such as motivation and anxiety, to further increase their students’ success.  By learning and practicing these research-based strategies proven to help students with mathematics and testing anxiety, instructors have the golden opportunity to positively impact student success.

Reference

Maloney, E. A., Sattizahn, J. R., & Beilock, S. L. (2014). Anxiety and cognition. WIREs Cognitive Science, 5(4), 403-411.