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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

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Companion Classes as a Support Model in Introductory Biology and Chemistry

Author(s): Ledford, J., Keen, S., Motika, M., & Hou, X.

Citation: Ledford, J., Keen, S., Motika, M., & Hou, X. (2020). Companion Classes as a Support Model in Introductory Biology and Chemistry. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 32(2), 59-76.



We evaluate the effectiveness of companion classes designed to support at-risk first-year students in introductory biology and chemistry within the University of California system. Companion classes (co-classes) are optional classes associated with large, gateway biology and chemistry courses (parent classes) and provide three hours of instruction each week; two hours are devoted to content reinforcement, and one hour is devoted to advising. Recruitment into co-classes was focused on students who had attended high schools with high proportions of low-income families, English language learners, and foster youth. Co-classes incorporate pedagogical elements from multiple first-year initiatives but are distinguished by having content support and advising that address sociopsychological factors frequently identified as barriers to student success. Average recruitment into co-class sections was 20.8%. Multivariate regression, Heckman modeling, and propensity score matching showed positive effects on student performance with gains between 4-5% of parent course points. Challenges in implementation are discussed, and student perspectives of co-class benefits are presented.


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