Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Dr. Susan Thomason, Associate Vice President of Instructional Services. We’re talking about the instructional implementation of Guided Pathways and the alignment of pathways with program maps.

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Episode Transcript 

[Matt Evins:] Welcome to another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division at ACC. Today I’m joined by Dr. Susan Thomason, Associate Vice President of Instructional Services, as we talk about the instructional implementation of Guided Pathways and the alignment of pathways with program maps. Dr. Thomason, thank you for joining me today.

[Susan Thomason:] Thank you for having me.

[Matt Evins:] So, let’s go ahead and get started. What is the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division’s role in supporting faculty, department chairs, and deans in developing Guided Pathways?

[Susan Thomason:] Well, our area, prior to becoming a division actually initiated a lot of the work with the program mapping sessions. We had met with Davis Jenkins who’s one of the authors of the book that sort of started the movement of Guided Pathways. And we were planning to start a lot of the work in the spring semester of that year, and he said, ‘You need to start this work as soon as possible because you need to have a sort of broad engagement across all of the department chairs and student affairs representatives who deal with this work. So, we discussed which of the areas of study we were going to be focusing on. Two of the ones that seemed to be already in the premise of what Guided Pathways was doing were health sciences and business. So, in the fall of 2015 we hosted the first sessions or conversations with the deans of those areas, as well as the department chairs of those areas to discuss the approach that we would take. The following January we began on a monthly basis hosting all of the ten areas of study in a comprehensive work sessions that included not only all the department chairs, the deans, and the assigned advisors and counsellors who were tied to those areas, but we also included continuing education, we included adult basic education, articulation and transfer, a lot of the developmental faculty. What we found was interesting is that it was the first time that all of those entities had been in a room together to have this kind of conversation about the curriculum of those programs. So, we lead in that particular way. We had also been part of the program mapping– I’m sorry, the Futures Institute, where we got to see some of what the other schools were doing with program mapping, and we borrowed the example from city colleges of Chicago. They had a really well formatted program map design, so we took their design and tweaked it slightly for ACC, and as we hosted the mapping sessions, we also worked with departments to start populating those maps. In that initial phase, what was interesting is that the initial phase was all done manually, so these were word templates that turned into pdfs which were very time consuming to say the least. The other thing that we did was we started restructuring the division to better support these different kinds of things that related to pathways. So, we restructured our Curriculum Services office, it became the Curriculum Development office and we assigned a person to be the process holder for program maps, who’s now also a process holder for the catalogue and that’s Georgia Branch, and she’s now in a new position in that area. The other thing we’ve been doing, the scheduling work, we purchased a new scheduling system called AdAstra that not only includes the pieces that relate to room scheduling, but there’s also an analytics component that we have purchased, and the idea there is, in terms of Guided Pathways, for us to have better scheduling to meet students needs so that students don’t have to travel between campuses, so that we can block schedule or group courses that are related and students can get those courses not only scheduled in a more efficient and effective way, but can actually get through their programs more quickly. So, the Guided Pathways work relates to, sort of, the scheduling piece, as well. In addition, TLED also houses the articulation and university relations unit, which has been doing a lot of work. We started hosting university summits where faculty speak directly to faculty from our transfer partner institutions to talk about alignment, curricular alignment, so how do our program maps feed into their program maps? So, there was a lot of work done sort of at the infancy of this movement or this idea of developing a framework for Guided Pathways. More recently we’ve been involved in sort of a phase 2 effort where we identified that there were still a lot of a disconnect, a lot of disconnect with faculty who weren’t clear on their role and what was going on in the classroom teaching and learning in relations to Pathway. So, we have redirected some efforts and lead some efforts, and designed a series of events going on this particular year starting off with general assembly, completely focussed on the premise or the elements that relate to Guided Pathways, like partnerships, high impact practices, etc. And then we will be hosting a variety of Guided Pathways updates that are open to faculty and staff, but also area of study sessions that are specifically for the department chairs and the student services advisors and counsellors, and others who are part of those areas of study to talk about Pathway’s related planning and forms. So, you know, I could probably go on and on about a lot of other things we’ve done. We’ve done a lot of work with the faculty development side of the house. Basically, restructuring the unit as well as expanding the programs to include many more offerings as well as opening up to many more faculty. All of that relates to if you consider the principles of Guided Pathways, one of them is effective teaching practice. So, we’ve been part of that. Our calendar this year, those faculty who have received that can see that it’s all based on the American Association of Community Colleges, effective practices or central practices and what we found interesting was also that where there was a little bit of a lack of clarity with the faculty role. As we look at those principles, every single one of those start with instructional faculty as leading the work from program maps to transfer to K12 links, to accelerated remediation to– all of that relates to faculty and certainly quite a bit of it also relates to the advising element and how advisors would work hand in hand with faculty and counselors, and other support staff would work hand in hand with faculty to make sure students progress and succeed, so…

[Matt Evins:] Great. Well, it’s also worth mentioning, you mentioned the calendar for this year is on the theme of Guided Pathways, and how it impacts all aspects of the college, so it’s also worth noting that the theme for this year’s Teaching and Learning Champions podcast is also around other, you know, interviews with faculty and staff on the impact of Guided Pathways, specifically on instruction. So, that kind of segues into the next question: What does the adoption of Guided Pathways for the college mean for faculty members and their day to day instruction?

[Susan Thomason:] So, the efforts that we have implemented with a new onboarding program for faculty, both adjunct and full-time, as well as the development of our Teaching and Learning Academy which is a year-long program that is a culmination of all of the work and a lot of the different elements that we have provided to faculty over the years, so it includes elements from the great teaching retreat, project ACC: Active and collaborative learning. It includes a hybrid model design based on Quality Matters standards. So, it’s sort of the best of all worlds packaged into one. In all those programs, as well as other workshops and other outreach that we’ve done with instructional design and course redesign, the focus is really to leverage and to help faculty members use high impact practices in the classroom, from active and collaborative learning models to implementing or employing service-learning in their courses, which we know is a high impact practice to including in their programmatic design, opportunities for experiential learning, or co-operative education, any kind of study abroad potentially. So, those are things that help some of the programmatic or daily approaches. The other thing that’s really important to consider is as we’re looking at the defining areas of study and what careers mean in those industries, how do we align our curriculum to not only be equity-minded and equity focussed, which is, we know is important, but also, how do we contextualize the work in the classroom to the business and industry needs or concepts? So, if we’re talking about examples in a certain area of study, how do we bring those sort of into the working world? Which is why experiential learning becomes a critical piece, but you could still do that even in contextualizing courses. We know for example that some of the programs are– sociology, I think, is one of the departments that is contextualizing their courses to meet the needs of health sciences, for example in some cases, or the manufacturing areas in some cases. So, those are some of the potential things that you would consider in day to day instruction. Other things we’re trying to do is really try to provide support for the faculty with a lot of the classroom management kinds of pieces so that they can then dedicate more time to maybe more of the active and collaborative learning elements that sometimes just require a little bit more time to prepare and focus on.

[Matt Evins:] So, for the faculty listening, if they’re– you know, they’re hearing you talk about experiential learning and other high impact practices. If faculty members need help or have questions about how to incorporate high impact practices into their specific course that they’re teaching, is there a specific group on campus, or specific team or place that they can go to get resources?

[Susan Thomason:] So, there’s a couple of things they can do. On a campus based level, they can go to their instructional designer and we also have faculty instructional support specialists on the campus who can provide some first level support. They could reach out to our faculty development office for what kinds of workshops or programs might be available, not just that they’re delivering or that they may be aware of other things that are being offered at conferences or just locally within the area. And then, they can certainly, if they’re looking, for example, at experiential learning, they might want to reach out directly to the experiential learning office, which covers internships, co-ops, service learning, and they’re also familiar with other types of experiential learning, such as practicums, which I know in health sciences aren’t managed there, but they would be able to provide context for all the different types of things, including even study abroad– even though that also is under a different office. So, their areas, you know, we’re trying to get to the point and in most cases, you can reach pretty much anybody in T Lead and we can direct you to the right space. That’s the ultimate goal is that it doesn’t serve matter if you reach the right place, we will get you to the right place. But for the campus based help, your first sort of line of support would be the instructional designers.

[Matt Evins:] Great. What happens when TLED is supporting a department in incorporating Guided Pathways, and everything goes according to plan? What type of impact does that have on our students?

[Susan Thomason:] So, I think a lot of that really gets at the programmatic level or the sort of award level with the alignment. So, in a perfect world, a student enters– clearly identifies a program that is of interest, both personally, as well as in terms of their long term career goals, and they enter the appropriate pathway. So, once you’re in the appropriate pathway, you may go in to a particular program of study, but if you decide to change programs for some reason, if you move into a different one, you’re not losing a lot of credits because there is alignment across all the programs in some way within an area of study. So, that’s an advantage, and that would be a success in that case. As you move through the program, another element would be that you take the courses that you need, the courses are available. You are– we minimize the number of courses that you take that do not apply directly to your program, or if you’re transferring, that they don’t apply directly to your transfer institution. All of that means you are getting through the program as quickly as possible with the appropriate courses with the least expense and cost, and then ultimately, you know, graduating with some experiential learning under your belt so that you can use that and bring that into a resume with employment opportunities already on the table for you when you get out. So, that would be sort of the trajectory of everything being successful. Students spend 90% of their time, 90% of their academic career, if not more than that, with the faculty members in a classroom. So, what goes on in those classrooms is really, really critical for their motivation, to stay connected, to stay engaged. We participate in the community college survey of student engagement and have over many, many years, and the reason that even is a survey that we participate in and it is a national survey is because we know from research that engagement is a critical part of helping students stay connected, persist, and complete. And so, the more they can be engaged in the classroom, the more the engagement can be meaningful towards their career goals, towards their personal goals, the more they can connect with people, we know the more that they will be able to complete and reach their goals.

[Matt Evins:] Great. So, Guided Pathways is a relatively new concept for ACC, but program maps, however, have been around for quite some time. What’s the relationship between the two of those?

[Susan Thomason:] Interestingly, the very first essential practice is on the Pathways model of American Association of Community Colleges is the program maps, and the way they describe it is it’s a process to simplify the choices for students with, they call them default maps, and I know there’s been some contention with the idea that we are prescribing courses versus letting students explore. What we find is that there are students who potentially can explore because they have the ability and the financial resources, and other resources available for them to do that, other students who are coming in and sometimes struggle or are– stay in the program longer than necessary are sometimes the ones who don’t have those additional resources, which really means it’s a disservice to the student who is trying to get and reach their goal. So, the program maps and Guided Pathways, and the program maps sort of in the context that we’re using them is really directly tied to the work of Guided Pathways. As you can see from the ones that we have available, again, we model those after– mostly after city college of Chicago, but it was a way to group the courses within the different semesters. We include information about transfer opportunities right on the map. We include information about employment opportunities and what careers align with the program map. We have contact information, we have advising notes on there. We talk through the map of milestones that students will reach throughout the program. When we have work force programs, they also have potentially stackable credentials, which includes certificates of various kinds. We’re working with CE to try to embed all the CE programs into the maps, as well, so that the student would see sort of the full menu of options that could lead from CE programs into credit programs and how those can be a single resource for students as they map out their advising sort of process. And so, I don’t really see those as separate things in the context of what we’re trying to do with Guided Pathways, nor is that the way that describe– we used to have what we call curriculum maps in the past. The program maps are really more comprehensive tools for students within Guided Pathways.

[Matt Evins:] Ok. Well, that’s a lot of great information about Guided Pathways in general. Just one last question. It’s sort of a fun question that I try to do at the end of these: What’s giving you Riverbat pride this week?

[Susan Thomason:] Well, I’m getting ready to go to the Boots and Bats party next month which is a big fundraising event for the college and I encourage everybody to also buy their tickets to attend the Boots and Bats. It was a really, really successful event. The funds from this go to student scholarships, so that gives me Riverbat pride this week.

[Matt Evins:] Excellent! Well, that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe to the ACC district podcasts on any of your preferred podcast apps, or listen to individual episodes on the TLED website. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll chat next time on TLC at ACC.

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Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success (Amazon)

What is the Pathways Model? (American Association of Community Colleges)