Removing Barriers to Success: An Integrative Expectancy-Value Intervention

Project No.
PI Name
Chris Hulleman
University of Virginia

EHR Core Research

Abstract 1

Removing Barriers to Success: An Integrative Expectancy-Value Intervention

Presentation Type
Chris Hulleman, University of Virginia Jeff Kosovich, University of Virginia Julie Phelps, Valencia College Maryke Lee, Valencia College William Murrah, University of Virginia Deborah Howard, Valencia College


Developmental math courses are a major academic gate-keeper for adequately preparing students for the work force, with as many as 54% of students in community colleges fail to reach college-ready math proficiency even with remediation through developmental curriculum. The primary purpose of the proposed study is to determine the impact of the fully-developed expectancy-value motivation intervention on developmental math studentsメ course pass-rates and drop-out rates. The study will also examine the student and contextual moderators and mediators of the intervention, and the relatively longer-term impacts of the intervention on studentsメ continuing enrollment and degree progress. The study will be conducted at Valencia College, which is a large (over 60,000 students), multi-campus community college located in central Florida. Like other community colleges around the nation, nearly 40% of their nearly 20,000 students who enroll in developmental math each year do not successfully complete the course.


The current proposal aims to test the combined efficacy of interventions aimed at promoting a growth mindset (i.e., expectancy) and utility value (i.e., value). To engender positive beliefs that all students have the capability to learn math, students will learn about neuroplasticity and how our brains continue to develop through practice/effort. To engender beliefs that math has value, students will be asked to write a short essay on how math is useful to their everyday lives or future goals. Interventions will be delivered using an online platform.


The assessment of the expectancy-value intervention calls for a rigorous randomized experimental design that compares the treatment and control (business as usual) classrooms on various educationally relevant outcome measures. The proposed study will use a fully-crossed 2 (Mindset vs. Control) x 2 (Utility vs. Control) multi-cohort, randomized, matched design (IES, 2010) in which developmental math teachers at one community college are sampled and their classes are randomly assigned to either control or one of three treatment conditions (growth mindset only, utility value only, combined growth mindset and utility value).


Math achievement will be measured by the number of students who pass the course. Math persistence will be measured by the number of students who drop the course. To date, we have conducted several small pilot studies (sample sizes of 25, 100, and 200) that have demonstrated that both the growth mindset and utility value intervention boost pass rates and performance of developmental math students. Beginning in Spring 2016, we will begin scaling up the project to a larger sample of faculty (20 per semester), classrooms (50-60 per semester), and students (1,250).

Broader Impacts

Findings from this study have clear relevance for state and local policies concerning approaches to enhancing student performance in developmental math courses offered in community colleges. Because our project officially launched in September 2015, we have only impacted a small group of students from our pilot studies. However, we have the potential to impact the nearly 20,000 students who enroll in developmental math each year at Valencia, 40% of whom do not successfully complete the course.

Unexpected Challenges

We encountered low response rates to our intervention activities even though students were offered participation credit towards their grades. We were informed by the mathematics faculty that response-rates to our intervention activities were similar to homework response rates. We responded by offering the activities as part of class time. However, due to low attendance rates, we were also limited in response rates. We are contiuing to look for better strategies to improve response rates. To improve communication with instructor-implementers, we opened direct relationships with the instructors in the study so that they could ask questions regarding implementation directly. Doing so reduced the possibility of communication break down and also increased the amount of practitioner input into the project methods.