PhD in Public Policy

Erin Connor ’15

Erin Connor

Career

Current position: Program Manager, Graduate Programs in Education, College of Graduate & Professional Studies, University of New England

Connor has worked as a teacher and administrator in public, independent and charter schools. At the postsecondary level, Dr. Connor has served as dean of student services, associate academic dean, and instructional technologist.

Degrees:

  • PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2015
  • MS from Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1996 
  • BA in English Literature, Swarthmore College

Dissertation

Title: Ready?: The Experiences of Maine High School Graduates in Remedial College Classes   

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to describe a research study designed to explore the experiences of Maine high school graduates who begin their college careers with remedial math classes. Remedial classes are designed to offer instruction in a content area to raise the skill level of students deemed to not have the mastery of concepts necessary for college-level work so that they may go on to participate in college-level courses. Participants were assigned to remedial classes as a result of the Accuplacer standardized placement exam administered by the community college or public university in which they enrolled. This research study was designed to use a phenomenological approach to capture the lived experiences of the participants. Participants took part in three interview protocols over the course of their first terms in college, while participating in remedial math classes, as well as other general education courses. The protocols focused on the participants’ past experience as high school students, how their high school experiences informed their understanding of their new college contexts, and how their remedial experiences influenced their plans for their academic futures. The interviews were coded using an open-coding approach, and themes were developed. The findings indicated that students were surprised by their assignments to remedial classes as a result of the way their high school preparation was described, and the way the nature of college-level work was depicted as consisting of descriptions of work habits. Participants made use of study skills and other learning strategies from their high school context to navigate their remedial course work. All participants were living off campus with family, and they utilized the input of their families, as well as jobs they continued to hold from high school, as resources to interpret their new contexts. Those home and work contexts provided influential but differing advice. Participants described influential relationships with the instructors of their remedial classes, and the use of an online instruction tool, MyMathLab featured in the descriptions of their experience. Policy recommendations for institutions are presented for the alignment of curriculum, presentation of content area skills in addition to work habits, and integration of asynchronous online components in face-to-face remedial instruction. Further research is suggested in the areas of work experiences and college aspirations, the instruction of college-level skills across content areas and cueing college readiness.