Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics: Students 'Perceptions of the Placement Process

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics: Students 'Perceptions of the Placement Process

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to examine student perceptions of the placement process used to place students in the first of three developmental mathematics courses at a southwestern community college. The study also served the purpose of determining if a relationship existed between student satisfaction with placement and other factors such as pace of course and scores on the placement test. Participants were students enrolled in one summer and three fall Basic Mathematics courses.

A mixed methods concurrent embedded study was used to gain an understanding of the student perceptions of the placement process (Creswell, 2009). Seventy-two percent of the students stated they had been properly placed. Interestingly, sixty-one percent of the students who reported receiving a "C" or better in high school Algebra II felt they had been placed correctly in Basic Mathematics. A content analysis revealed differences between the COMPASS placement test and the departmental pretest, but student comments indicated a belief that the two tests were similar because they were both used for placement. A significant relationship was found between students' feelings of proper and improper placement and student satisfaction with pace of course. A significant relationship was also found to exist between student satisfaction with pace of course and length of time since the last math course.

The study revealed that college personnel and students must learn to communicate clearly concerning the placement process to increase efficiency, student satisfaction, and retention. Student responsibility emerged as a key component in increasing the effectiveness of the placement process.

No single mathematics placement process works best for all community colleges. Each community college is uniquely based on its own community, making it important that the community college in this study considers its students' perceptions, including their satisfaction with the pace of a basic mathematics course, their feelings of proper placement, the length of time since their last mathematics course, and the score received by these students on the placement test.

Tinto (1988) states in his model of college student retention that students leave college due to the lack of congruency between student factors and institution factors. In other words, certain student and institution factors will raise retention rates for students. Tinto's theoretical model uses student academic ability and motivation as they relate to the college's academic and social attributes to explain the student's commitment to persist and to meet an educational goal. For community college students, the goal may be to continue to a four-year institution, attain an associate degree, or to complete a full year of study to fulfill requirements for a specialized employment program. Tinto states the higher the desire to persist with a goal, the higher the retention. While Tinto's research used four-year institutions, other studies have used his model at the community college level with meaningful results. Mohammadi (1994) found that student attrition rates, the rate at which students leave college, were higher for non-traditional students and that the need exists to identify all known variables that might affect attrition or retention. Placement policies play an important role in the success or failure of a developmental education program and can then have an effect on retention rates. Hoyt ( 1999) conducted research that showed a negative relationship between students enrolled in at least three developmental areas and these students' retention rates. On the other hand, Gerlaugh, et al. (2007) found a positive correlation between passing remedial coursework and retention rates. Some colleges are experimenting with a variety of courses that are offered in varying formats and time frames. For instance, Mountain Empire Community College in Virginia offers two faster-paced courses for students. …

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