A recent study conducted by Education Equity Solutions, a research organization focused on promoting equity in higher education policy, has revealed that the influence of instructors and their teaching methods significantly outweighs students’ prior academic performance when predicting learning outcomes.
This study, addressing a gap in existing research, specifically focuses on introductory college math courses, known to pose challenges for community college students seeking to complete their degrees.
According to a press release from the report, the role of teachers in college completion has been frequently overlooked.
Role in college completion
Still, this study underscores their paramount importance in helping students succeed, particularly in gateway math classes, notorious for causing hurdles to college persistence.
While previous research mainly concentrated on students’ academic readiness and structural factors such as required remedial courses, the current study highlights the urgency of identifying strategies to enhance college persistence, given the national degree completion rate of just 43%.
The research encompassed data from 22,827 students across 704 gateway math classes in four California community colleges, spanning the period from winter 2020 to spring 2022.
It also involved a faculty survey and analysis of course syllabi to examine the relationship between instructional practices and student success.
The study found that instructors played the most substantial role in predicting students’ course pass rates, even after controlling for variables like students’ race, socioeconomic status, and high school background.
Among the instructional practices associated with higher pass rates were clear explanations of grading processes, explicit guidelines for late work accommodations, encouragement for students to seek help and access support, and fostering a sense of belonging among students through peer collaboration and faculty support.
Importantly, these practices were particularly beneficial for Black and Hispanic students, who historically have lower pass rates in introductory math classes compared to their white and Asian peers.
The study’s findings underscore the importance of instructors’ role in student success, highlighting that even students who may initially feel they are not “math people” can thrive with the right support from instructors.
Faculty members, administrators, and experts have welcomed the study’s conclusions as a starting point for future research and professional development efforts to improve classroom practices and enhance students’ chances of success.