Guided Pathways & Professional Development

In What We Know About Guided Pathways by the CCRC (source), researchers have created a useful report about systemic change to promote academic success for community college students. A major strength of community and technical colleges is the ways in which students can select their courses as “a buffet.” This freedom of choice is especially useful for adult returning students exploring new learning opportunities and citizens interested in life-long learning.

For students who are trying to transfer to a four-year university or complete a certificate program, however, this freedom–especially for first-generation college students–can be unnecessarily confusing and challenging. Students make costly mistakes and lose momentum with their education.

The CCRC propose the following:

Making the kinds of institution-wide changes called for in the guided pathways reform model is challenging and requires committed leaders who can engage faculty and staff from across the college.

In terms of faculty professional development, they identify the current status quo for faculty:

  • Learning outcomes are focused on courses, not programs. 
  • Instructors are often isolated and unsupported. 
  • Metacognitive skills are considered outside the scope of instruction.

Focusing on meaningful professional development for faculty would include the following:

  • Faculty collaborate to define and assess learning outcomes for entire programs.
  • Faculty are trained and supported to assess program learning outcomes and use results to improve instruction.
  • Supporting motivation and metacognition is an explicit instructional goal across programs.

In addition to useful theory and statistics, they give examples where this style of systemic change has been implemented at the program level with a blend of state-funded support and institutionalized faculty collaboration:

The Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model was developed by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to help adult basic skills students enter and complete certificates in career-technical education (CTE) programs. Consistent with the design principles for guided pathways, the program integrates the teaching of foundational basic skills with instruction in college-level technical content and enrolls students in a prescribed, wholeprogram schedule of courses that are aligned with job requirements in related fields.

 See also Legitimize Open & Flexible Time For Teacher Collaboration (source) and The Five Pillars of Motivating Instruction (source)

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