Learning Together

This study focuses on four counties’ efforts to expand bachelor’s degree opportunities in early care and education (ECE) for working adults. The student cohort model – in which small groups of ECE students with similar interests and characteristics pursue a bachelor’s degree together and receive targeted support services – has emerged across the country. We are currently implementing the final year of a five-year longitudinal study of students participating in cohort programs in four California counties: Alameda, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, and San Francisco. We will also be interviewing program funders and developers about their assessment of the success of B.A. completion cohort programs.

The Learning Together study is supported by: First 5 Alameda County-Every Child Counts, First 5 Santa Barbara County, First 5 San Francisco, the WestEd – E3 Institute, and the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation.

Our reports related to the Learning Together project:

Learning Together: A Study of Six B.A. Completion Cohort Programs in Early Care and Education (Year 4 Report)
By Fran Kipnis, Marcy Whitebook, Mirella Almaraz, Laura Sakai and Lea J.E. Austin (2012)
The Year 4 interviews of the Learning Together study reveal that two to three years post degree, nearly 95 percent of graduates remain in the early care and education (ECE) field, and that graduates overwhelmingly report personal, professional and educational benefits as a result of their B.A. degree cohort program. Specifically, graduates report that structural aspects of their B.A. program, such as financial aid and flexible class schedules, were important to their educational success, that the cohort experience continues to provide them with professional support, and that as a result of their degree attainment they now earn more, have advanced in their careers, and continue to explore educational opportunities. Graduates also identified several important areas for programmatic improvement, such as expanding coursework to include ECE public policy and classes on working with adults.  They also discuss workplace characteristics that support or impede their abilities to engage in good practice and to continue to develop their skills.

Learning Together: A Study of Six B.A. Completion Cohort Programs in Early Care and Education (Year 3 Report)
by Marcy Whitebook, Fran Kipnis, Laura Sakai, and Mirella Almaraz (2011)
The Year 3 interviews of the Learning Together study reveal that the vast majority of students successfully graduated from their B.A. cohort program. Year 3 interviews focused on two issues of concern about higher education programs – the practicum experiences for employed students and the adequacy of attention to working with children from linguistically diverse backgrounds. The graduates overwhelmingly reported that their B.A. classes provided them with skills and strategies needed to communicate with children who speak a language other than their own. While the majority of students reported that their practicum experiences helped them do a better job at their workplace, they also identified several areas for improvement. The Year 3 study also reports on the graduates’ perspectives about support at their jobs for ongoing learning and any changes in employment and/or compensation upon completing their degree.

Learning Together: A Study of Six B.A. Completion Cohort Programs in Early Care and Education (Year 2 Report)
by Marcy Whitebook, Laura Sakai, Fran Kipnis, Dan Bellm, and Mirella Almaraz (2010)
During the Year 2 interviews, the students resoundingly reported that the cohort model enabled them to access and succeed in a B.A.-level education in a way that would not otherwise have been possible. The students reported progress in overcoming the challenges described in the Year 1 report, and decreasing their reliance on some of the program supports as they progressed through the program. The students also identified the importance of employer support in successfully pursuing their educational goals.

Learning Together: A Study of Six B.A. Completion Cohort Programs in Early Care and Education (Year 1 Report)
by Marcy Whitebook, Laura Sakai, Fran Kipnis, Mirella Almaraz, Esther Suarez, and Dan Bellm (2008)
This report presents the Year 1 findings of the Learning Together study, in which the research team conducted extensive interviews with over 90 percent of the 124 student cohort members, and with 13 administrators and faculty members. The report highlights the striking congruence between the student and institutional perspectives on aspects of the B.A. completion cohort programs that were working well, and on the adjustments or improvements that were still needed.