Giving community college students voice: The effects of mathematics self-placement on student success
Holly Kosiewicz

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Southern California

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
Most community colleges use a placement test to assign students to developmental education, even though there is increasing evidence suggesting that these tests misdiagnose a student?s need for additional academic preparation. To correct misdiagnosis, some advocate for Directed Self-Placement (DSP), a placement approach that forces a student to decide if and the extent to which they need developmental education to succeed in college. Even though we know little about the benefits of DSP on improving the success of underprepared college students, some states and community colleges, nevertheless, have adopted it to sort students into developmental versus college-level coursework. Using a mixed model design, I employ quantitative and qualitative data from two DSP California community colleges to advance our understanding of the effects and benefits of DSP for developmental math in three ways. First, I estimate the causal impact of DSP versus a test-based placement regime on scholastic achievement. Second, I explore how a student?s academic engagement and self-awareness change as a result of DSP. Finally, I examine how a community college implements DSP relates with their students' intermediate outcomes (e.g., academic engagement and self-awareness) and final outcomes (e.g. scholastic achievement). Results from these analyses will inform state policymakers and local community colleges if and how DSP adds value over current placement regimes on scholastic achievement, and about the limitations of DSP implementation practices. Through this dissertation, I design a student questionnaire, which community colleges can use to pinpoint the limitations in their implementation of DSP from a student?s perspective.
About Holly Kosiewicz

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