Studying Equitable and Holistic Corequisite Course Design

A student raises his hand in class

December 2020-December 2022

More than 15 states require colleges to enroll students with developmental needs directly into college-level courses with corequisite supports. However, many of these states have not brought corequisite remediation to scale and the models they are implementing diverge widely. To date, there has been little guidance on which models or practices work best for different groups of students, particularly those that struggle with basic math or English skills, and how to bring the most effective models to scale. In addition, there is no consensus on strategies to close racial equity gaps in the context of corequisite implementation.

Through the Corequisite Research Design Collaborative (CRDC), the Charles A. Dana Center designed an initiative to bring equity-minded, holistic corequisite course models to scale at four institutions in Minnesota and Texas. The goals of the collaborative were to dramatically increase the number of students enrolled in corequisite courses implemented with evidence-based design principles and to encourage students’ self-advocacy in class. These principles guided the design and delivery of instruction and cocurricular supports to help students complete gateway math and English courses.

CAPR partnered with the Dana Center to study and offer formative feedback about the implementation of corequisite course models at the four colleges. The researchers also sought to better understand if and how the corequisite courses integrated an equity focus that better supported students’ academic and cultural learning styles in order to reduce the equity gaps that exist in math and English course completion.

The project focused on three major research questions:

  1. How did the CRDC colleges implement holistic student supports in gateway corequisite math and English courses?
  2. What did corequisite course leaders at the CRDC colleges consider to be the successes and challenges of implementing their courses? What were their strategies for improvement?
  3. How did students, faculty, and other stakeholders experience the holistic corequisite courses? What successes and challenges did they identify as part of their experiences in these courses?

The Study Design

The researchers conducted interviews and focus groups with instructors, staff members, administrators, and students, observed the design and implementation of corequisite courses at the four CRDC colleges, and administered a survey to students who were enrolled in the corequisite courses during the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters.

What We’ve Learned

A research brief and supplement released in September 2023 highlight findings on the design and implementation of corequisite courses at four colleges, as well as findings from a survey administered to students who were enrolled in these courses in fall 2021 and spring 2022. The corequisite support courses helped students understand course content and increased their engagement with their coursework. Students appeared more comfortable engaging in support courses than in the paired college-level courses, suggesting that support courses can play an important role by providing an additional space for students to interact with the course content, their peers, and faculty.

The researchers also found that some corequisite courses were able to successfully integrate holistic support services and culturally relevant instruction, allowing the instructors to address barriers students faced and to connect the course material to students’ lives.

This study is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.