As I mentioned in the entry entitled AERA 2016 and K-12 Online Learning, the 2016 annual meeting of the American Education Research Association is occurring in Washington, DC over the next few days. That means that I will be blogging many of the sessions throughout the week. The seventh session that I am blogging is:
Online Algebra Credit Recovery: Characteristics of In-Class Mentor Instructional Support
- In Event: Getting At-Risk Students Back on Track: Results From a Randomized Trial of Algebra Credit Recovery
4:05 to 6:05pm, Marriott Marquis, Level Two, Marquis Salon 2
Objectives and Theoretical Framework
Many online courses include an in-class mentor in addition to the online teacher who instructs the course virtually. Mentors are usually teachers who may or may not be certified in the same content as the online course and, in general, their role is to proctor online exams and conduct administrative classroom tasks. Mentors can also provide instructional support for students, creating more of a blended learning environment than a fully online course. The purpose of this paper is to describe the amount of instructional support mentors provided in the online classrooms in the Back on Track Study and examine the academic outcomes of students in online classes with and without instructional support from mentors. We hypothesized that students would benefit if their mentors provided more instructional support.
Methods and Data sources
For the study, 1,224 students who failed second-semester algebra in their first year of high school were randomly assigned to either the online course or a f2f class. In total, the study included 76 algebra credit recovery classes: 38 online and 38 f2f classes. The summer courses were offered at 17 participating schools during two 3-week summer sessions. The online course offered in this study included Aventa’s Algebra IB curriculum, the web-based course software, and an online teacher. As part of the study, the online course was required to have a mentor in the physical classroom, but the mentors were not required to be certified in math.
As part of the study, mentors kept a daily log of classroom activities. These logs were used to determine the amount of course time mentors spent instructing students on math content. Archived online course data recorded student performance in the course. Student experience in the credit recovery course is measured with the study administered student survey and academic outcomes are measured with an end-of-course algebra assessment and district course-taking records.
Fifteen of the 38 online classrooms had mentors who spent 20% or more of the course time answering math questions; in the other 23 classrooms mentors spent less than 20% of the time providing math instruction. While grades in the online course were generally low, students in online classes with instructionally supportive mentors passed a higher percentage of attempted assessments than students who did not (55% versus 47%). Although the main impact analyses found that the online students overall were less likely to successfully recover algebra credit than students in the f2f classes (66% online versus 76% f2f), the credit recovery rate for online students with instructionally supportive mentors (77%) was higher than that for those whose mentors were not (60%) and their rates were actually similar to their counterparts in the f2f classes (77%).
This paper provides insight into mentor practices in online credit recovery classrooms and the benefit of mentor instructional support. As more students take online courses, it is important to understand the conditions that help students succeed in these courses especially if the online course is an opportunity for students to recover much-needed credit.
- Suzanne Stachel Taylor, American Institutes for Research
- Jordan Rickles, American Institutes for Research
Suzanne’s portion was focused on the research brief entitled “The Role of In-Person Instructional Support for Students Taking Online Credit Recovery” (see http://www.air.org/resource/role-person-instructional-support-students-taking-online-credit-recovery).
One of the tools was a log that mentor teachers kept to determine how much time during the 60 hour courses that they spent:
- math content presented in the online course
- math topic needed to understand Algebra 1B content
Only 15 of the mentors were described at instructionally supportive math mentors out of ## mentors (i.e., logged 12+ hours). This group had a higher proportion that were math certified (i.e., 67% in the supportive vs. 47% in the less supportive). Interestingly, the student demographics that fell within the classes of mentors who were instructionally supportive vs. less supportive was about the same.
Further, students who had less supportive mentors progressed further in the course, but passed fewer of the course tests and performed at a higher level than the students that had instructionally supportive mentors. Both groups only earned about a third of the overall points in the course.
Another interesting point was that when you looked at the percentage of students that actually recovered their credit:
- Online classes with instructional support – 77%
- Matched F2F – 77%
- Online classes with less support -60%
- Matched F2F -75%
As an aside, it was disappointing that the brief did not reference the work of Niki Davis or Matt Irvin and Claire de la Varre (i.e., virtual school facilitator), Lisa Hasler Water (i.e., learning coach), Jered Borup (i.e., learning coach or virtual school mentor), Dennis Mulcahy and myself (i.e., mediating teachers), or research out of New Zealand (i.e., eDeans). Suzanne even said that there “was little known about the role of the mentor teacher in the online credit recovery model.” Basically, another example of folks not familiar with the K-12 online learning community and failing to build upon what is already known in the field.
Other entries from this session: