Teaching & Learning Champions 06: Importance of Developmental Courses on Guided Pathways
January 31, 2020
Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Carolynn Reed, Department Chair, Developmental Math & Julie Wauchope, Department Chair, Integrated Reading & Writing. We’re talking about the Importance of Developmental Courses in Guided Pathways.
Thanks for listening to TLC @ ACC!
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Matthew 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 Carolynn Reed, department chair of Developmental Math, and Julie Wauchope, department chair of Integrated Reading and Writing, as we talk about the importance of developmental courses on Guided Pathways. Carolynn and Julie, thank you for joining me today. Thank you. Thank you.
[Matthew Evins:] What can you tell us about the goals and mission of your programs both Developmental Math as well as Integrated Reading and Writing? Julie, do you want to start?
[Julie Wauchope:] Sure. For us, I’d say our mission is to prepare students to be successful in college in any way that we can. Lately it’s become — since we only have one semester to do it for both reading and writing, it’s become much more individualized offering. And includes like reading textbooks, doing things online — so online searches, looking for good sources, things like that — and definitely critical thinking. That’s a big part of it. So people who can read and write, we help them bring up their skills to a college level so they can do academic reading and writing. And as far as writing goes, that’s more than just formal essays. So it would be things — doing essays, doing the process. My students, they don’t want to edit their papers. They just want to write something, turn it in and be done with it, things like that. Paragraphs, the importance of paragraphs. They’re not quite sure about that. And then different kinds of reading. Like if you do an essay for a test, that would be a completely different kind of writing than you would get for an essay, a formal essay that you would turn in, so stuff like that. And a big problem that I’ve noticed students have is integrating information from other sources into their writing. Which is what they would do in an in-class essay. So they might have gotten an idea somewhere along the line that if they write a lot, they get a lot down, they’ll get a good grade. And it doesn’t really work that way in college. So we’re doing that. But beyond that, I feel like we’re the first — we’re the front lines for those first time in college students, the ones who in the past haven’t gotten equity as far as college goes, haven’t been included. And I feel like that’s a major part of what we do. So teach them about college culture, how to — and we try to engage them with the college and feel a part of the college. And what else? I think that about covers it. So that I would say is something we’re always very aware of. Try to be very tolerant, very understanding of students and explicit about what’s going on, so they understand what to expect and feel welcome.
[Matthew Evins:] Great.
[Carolynn Reed:] So I mean, I can kind of build on what Julie said about just being the first kind of program that that student’s come into. It’s the same with Developmental Math. And being kind of an introduction to the college and college life and college culture. And for Developmental Math, our goal and our mission is to prepare the students for their college-level math courses. And so get them to where they can succeed in those college-level math courses, whatever they may be. And to also help them to learn study skills, particularly how they pertain to math. Because there’s a certain type of studying and a certain type of, you know, amount of practice that you need in a math course. And just kind of help introduce them to that, again, so they can succeed in math and succeed in their other courses. And to teach them critical thinking, which is one main goal of math, critical thinking and problem-solving. And that even if something looks incredibly complex, if you break it into little parts, you can tackle it and you can accomplish it and get to the end.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. How do your departments in thinking about Guided Pathways help students through their academic programs?
[Julie Wauchope:] The Integrated Reading and Writing, we have a few different ways that we’re looking at it for Guided Pathways. I don’t know if you know, but we have the state mandate to do co-requisites. So we’re looking at our co-requisites and kind of trying to figure out if you were in a different specific Guided Pathway, which co-requisite might be the best approach or the best on-ramp for you. And let’s see. We’re going to have 75% of our students will be in co-requisites starting next year. That’s the mandate. So we’re doing that. We have a few options that are for specific majors. Like we have technical writing. So that’s for people that don’t — will be better served by technical writing than by comp one. And we also are going to — we were going to do it but we had glitches with the computer, so we’re not doing it over spring. But we’re eventually going to have a co-rec with ethics. And ethics, almost all of the health sciences have to take ethics. So we think that would be a good on-ramp for them. We also try to analyze the skills and different strategies that would go with different pathways. There’s kind of the creative opinion, ideas, artistic kind of pathways, and those would — English would be good for that, because you have to create writing. History, believe it or not, because you have to come up with a reason why things happened and kind of make up your — take all the details and make up your own idea about what’s going on. Speech would be good for that, and philosophy. So I think those are the ones that if you’re going into a more creative pathway, those would be good on-ramps for you there. And then if you’re more of a science person, you wouldn’t think — I mean, there’s a specific kind of reading and writing for science, but it’s hard to do that at the lower level. But specifically psychology, co-requisite with psychology or government is more fact-based and more you have to follow certain rules. And so it’s more of a science kind of mind that would take that. And then sociology two. Although sociology has a little of each. So we look at those kind of things. And the last one is for the first time in college, to encourage them, make them feel — kind of maybe a little gentler introduction to college. We have the great questions, which is the Great Questions Seminar. So we’re co-reqing with that. And that’s a real good, solid introduction to college I think. And it expects them to be scholarly and good thinkers, but it also gives them a lot of support for it. So it’s a great class, a great co-rec for our reading and writing. And we’re also going to come up with a critical thinking class that will be similar to great questions in that it should be able to substitute for the Student Success course. But also will co-req with it. So it’ll be a college-level class, get credit for it. We’re thinking of doing it in the philosophy department. So we’re just starting to develop that.
[Matthew Evins:] Okay. Excellent.
[Carolynn Reed:] So the different — so talking about co-requisites. The difference between co-requisites for developmental education as opposed to what we did before, which was a series of courses, is most of the students can come in now and they will immediately go into their college-level course and they’re taking the developmental support along with it in that same semester and like learning what they need to learn kind of like as they need to learn it. So it’s a different approach to developmental education, and it’s really changing. It’s even more important for Guided Pathways because we want to get the student on the right pathway and in the right spot going along with their major and we do that in the very beginning. And it’s aligned all the way down into the developmental courses too. And so kind of along in math, along with Guided Pathways, the math movement has been towards what we call math pathways. And it’s getting away from that kind of old-timey standard of everyone has to take college algebra. Which it’s not the only math course and it’s certainly not the most important math course. It’s really only important if you’re going to take calculus. And so we’ve had math pathways which we’ve been working on. And what we’ve seen in the math department is we’ve really been trying to push these math pathways. And there are essentially kind of four entry-level math classes you can take: College Algebra, Math for Business and Economics, and something called Contemporary Math — which is kind of a math for a liberal arts type of course — and Elementary Statistics. And we’ve really been trying to get students to take alternatives, but everyone was kind of still sticking to that old standard of College Algebra. But now with Guided Pathways, one thing that we’ve seen that’s been very beneficial and exciting for us and for the students is, now in these pathways and in these majors, they’re really looking at like what math course really make sense for our students. And so we’re seeing a lot more students go on these pathways within the last few years as we’ve been implementing Guided Pathways as a college. And it’s really what it’s going to help is we’ve in the past seen a lot of students have to take multiple different — multiple math courses because they took the wrong one and now they’re sure that they’re going to take the right one from the beginning. And what we’ve also done in Developmental Math is we have built these pathways all the way down to the developmental level. So we have the four pathways down through Developmental Math as well. And so it’s really helping. What we’re seeing is students are getting in the right place and they’re taking the right course. And they can see why they’re doing what they’re doing. As opposed to before in Developmental Math, they were like, why am I having to do this? Are you just torturing me? Or does this have a point? And now they’re doing the college-level course and it kind of aligns with what they want to do and it makes a lot more sense to them because they can see kind of the end of where it’s going.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. How have the courses within your departments been impacted since the college’s adoption of Guided Pathways, Julie?
[Julie Wauchope:] They’ve been influenced tremendously. So we were more aware of the different requirements of different pathways. So if we’re teaching a general class, we kind of have to teach them all. So that’s a more challenging thing, especially since we’re down to one semester. They pretty much want us to get people through developmental education in one semester. That’s the new way to do it. So we kind of have to pack a lot into one semester. Let’s see. And also, as you were talking about, considering which is the best way for them to on-ramp to their major, whatever that is, especially with us when there is no real science on-ramp with us. It would be like if somebody — you had an English person, right? So we have to think, well, which one would be a better start for somebody with science. Because, as you were saying, Carolynn, I think the first class they take, if it’s motivating and exciting for them and they realize, this is going to help me get where I want to go, then they’re much more likely to stay in college and much more likely to be successful I think. So we really want to get that down. We have a relationship with other departments too, since all of our co-reqs are going to be with other departments. So we have — I think we know the other departments better. We have better relationships with them. And we get to know what they expect from their students and what their students — where their weak points are. They’re seeing students come in, what are their problems, and then we can address those before they get there. So that’s something we’re doing. Let’s see what else.
[Matthew Evins:] Just as a follow-up. You’d talked about with the developmental courses being really kind of limited to one semester and having to pack a lot in, what’s been the impact of packing that much content into a semester on student success? Have you guys noticed any difference?
[Julie Wauchope:] We haven’t done any long-term studies yet that I know of, because we’ve only been doing it — this is our third year. So we’re halfway through our third year. So it’s hard to say if we’re getting more graduates, for instance, because we haven’t been doing it long enough. I would say, anecdotally, I think we’re having more success. I think we have to get to where our expectations are not to teach the next class that they’re going to be in. Like we don’t teach them to be successful — well, we teach them to be successful what they need to know for Comp One. We teach them to be ready to take Comp One. Does that make sense?
[Matthew Evins:] Right, yeah.
[Julie Wauchope:] So I think we lowered our expectations — I hate to say that — on what content they learn. But I think we’ve made them more their own advisor. They’re more able to be self-reflective and ask questions and be able to recognize when they need something or what kind of things they might want to look for when they need it. So I think that’s been — I think they’ll be more successful in that way. And I think they have been. Also, what were talking about, getting them motivated, I think that’s a huge thing. That to be successful is that you have to be motivated, excited about college, interested. And I think that’s definitely true of co-reqs in our situation. That students are more motivated, more interested, more excited. So I think the evidence is going to be that they’ll be more successful. This past year — I don’t know about you in math — but we had a quarter of our fall students were in the lowest level, the level where we don’t even have to count them in our percentages because their skills are so low. So that was kind of a shock for us. So I’m interested to see how that group — the success of that group. Because they can only have two semesters. That’s all we’ve got anymore. And we don’t have single reading and single writing classes either. So before where they may have taken four classes in two semesters, now they’re only taking two. And most of them only take one a semester. So it will be interesting to see what happens there. I’m hearing from a lot of teachers this year, they’re not ready to go on to a co-req from their first semester. And next year we have to have more people in co-reqs. So it will be interesting to see the success rate of those students.
[Matthew Evins:] Carolynn?
[Carolynn Reed:] So we’re talking about courses, right?
[Matthew Evins:] Yeah.
[Carolynn Reed:] So since Guided Pathways has come around — I think I kind of touched on this before — but we always had math pathways and we had already gone down to the developmental level. But then along with the — the co-requisite movement kind of went along with Guided Pathways, just the timing was the same. And so we’ve been able to, you know, have co-requisites and all for those math pathways. And what we’ve seen — and it was even more dramatic this last fall as we were finally seeing that movement away from College Algebra. So we’re seeing a lot more enrollment in the other areas, which is a great thing. Because we had so many students in College Algebra who didn’t need to be there. And then it would make them hate everything math because they saw no point in what they were doing. And then I think kind of we were talking about outcomes and what we’ve seen is, in the past few years, we’re seeing more students get out of developmental and through their math and going on hopefully to either transfer or graduate. We haven’t had enough time to track them for that length of time, as Julie was saying. But we’re seeing — already we’re seeing just our success rates in getting through that college-level math course is dramatically higher than what we saw in what we were doing before. And part of it is the co-requisite structure and part of it is getting the students in the right class finally. And something that’s more suited for what they want to do and something that they care more about.
[Matthew Evins:] Yeah. Julie, you’d mentioned about the faculty feedback that you received regarding how prepared a student is to move into those co-req classes. Aside from that, have you received any feedback from faculty on Guided Pathways and how Guided Pathways has influenced the courses in your department?
[Julie Wauchope:] From faculty?
[Matthew Evins:] Yeah.
[Julie Wauchope:] I think they enjoy the — it’s kind of like developmental ed, and I think especially reading and writing, because we weren’t part of a bigger department like math is. We were kind of separate from the rest of the college. And I hate to say it, but sometimes I think were seen as like kindergarten teachers or something. And I think the camaraderie between us and the other disciplines has been really good for us, to be recognized as very capable, very professional, very knowledgeable professors and faculty members, very important to the college. And I think they see what we’re doing now. So I think we’ve gotten a lot more exposure in that way. And they see how what we do affects the students in their classes. So that’s been good. They see the need for us.
[Matthew Evins:] Carolynn, you’d mentioned it’s been a short amount of time since Guided Pathways has been implemented. But you’ve been doing math pathways for much longer. What’s the feedback that you’ve gotten from instructors on the Pathways model as a whole and how it’s impacted your courses?
[Carolynn Reed:] I think, you know, there’s always varied feedback in any change. But I think in general, on the math side especially, faculty like it when they see these students taking classes that they have more of an interest in. And I think faculty — a lot of faculty are more interested in teaching something that’s a little more applicable to what the students are doing. And, you know, I’ve heard from faculty, you know, just from student success, students are doing better in the classes. But also going back on that collaboration, I think I’m Guided Pathways in general encourages a lot more collaboration. We’ve had a lot more collaboration as a department with the other science engineering and math areas and even across other disciplines and talking about like, what is the best math course for your major. You know, like for English, like what do you want your students to be able to do? And what’s the best math course for that? And I think the faculty in our department have really had a positive, you know, really enjoyed that and understand all of the other areas more. And also advising, we’ve had a lot more collaboration with advising with Guided Pathways. It’s all about, you know, everyone working together. And in our collaboration with advising, that has really helped with our student success. Because advisors understand more what we’re doing and why and can better help the students, and we’re all on the same page and we’re really getting those students moving more forward than before. And I think that’s the same with Developmental Reading and Writing also. Like the advisors, you know, everyone all kind of understands the big picture a lot better, and that helps our students. Because when we all understand what they should be doing, they’re going to understand it a lot better than before when it was just a big mystery.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. So we’re closing in on today’s interview. Are there any projects or initiatives in either of your departments that you want the ACC community as a whole to know about as it relates to sort of expanding upon Guided Pathways, Julie?
[Julie Wauchope:] We’ve got two things. One is the Critical Thinking course that’s coming up. I think that it will prepare students for any major. So that’ll be good. The other thing — let’s see — is we have the Communication Cafe that we’re starting. We’re starting it at Highland. And that is like a writing lab but it will go beyond that to reading, reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, language acquisition, oral communications, and job hunting skills. So we want to have kind of ongoing instruction. So it’s beyond what they do in the Learning Lab, where we’ll have ongoing relationships with students who can come back every semester, dealing with, say, whatever kind of writing they’re doing for their specific class now. We can help that. We’ll know them. We’ll know what their skills are.
[Matthew Evins:] When will that be available?
[Julie Wauchope:] Starting in spring.
[Matthew Evins:] Okay.
[Julie Wauchope:] Only at Highland to start off with. But we’re hoping to expand to the other accelerators, at least. And Hayes, if we can find someplace to put it.
[Matthew Evins:] Space is a premium, yeah.
[Julie Wauchope:] So very excited.
[Matthew Evins:] Excellent. Carolynn, how about you guys?
[Carolynn Reed:] So we’re still working on our co-requisites and different types of models for those. And we also are going to streamline the pathway to calculus, kind of going along with Pathways. And we now have two different College Algebras. One is College Algebra for Precalculus and then one is a college algebra that’s either if you’re only going take that one math course or you’re going into the teaching — going into the education majors. And so took the Pathways even into the College Algebra and made the two kind of tracks of students who typically take that course to make it more applicable to what they’re doing. And nothing as exciting as Communication Cafe though. That sounds really cool. I want a math cafe. You know, we’re always looking at different ways of presenting this material and having more like active learning and more — we’re expanding our honors courses and thinking about that and thinking about like looking into making math courses kind of more topic-based. Like maybe health sciences focused statistics course or something like that. So we have been done quite a bit, so I think we’re kind of getting all that other stuff to settle before we try to take on anything else really drastically new. I’m sure our whole department will be happy to hear that.
[Matthew Evins:] Great. The last question I have, which is not related to Guided Pathways at all, but what’s giving you pride this week, aside from winter break?
[Julie Wauchope:] Definitely the Communications Cafe, that that’s coming up. Also, I think the — I’ve noticed there have been some new initiatives that have been — how do I say this? Ever since I think the recession of 2008, people have been critical of college because a lot of people were college graduates and didn’t get jobs. So I think colleges have become much more career-job oriented. And getting your degree is, you expect to get a job from that. And I think that’s different from the traditional way of going to college. And I think we’re coming back a little bit to include the traditional things that you get from college. Like exposure to lots of different ideas and the freedom to explore those different ideas and different topics and kind of being able to find yourself and exposure to other people’s opinions, things like that. So we’re including that back in. We’re trying to get that back in. And I think it’s working. The Great Questions is one of those things. What was Matthew’s — the Liberal Arts program. Is that what he calls it? Or initiative?
[Matthew Evins:] I think it was Initiative.
[Julie Wauchope:] Okay. That I think is great. More self-reflection. More student self-efficacy, things like that. So I’m excited about that.
[Matthew Evins:] Carolynn?
[Carolynn Reed:] Wow, that’s — I mean, we do have a lot of really — I just found out about that Liberal Arts Initiative, and it looked really interesting. That gives me pride when I see a lot of — all of these really interesting, new and creative things that all these different departments and areas are coming up with. And then also just going back to like we had so many graduates a week ago. And it just keeps — we just keep getting finally getting more and more of these students like their degrees and moving on to their next step. So that’s always exciting to see.
[Matthew Evins:] Excellent. Well, thank you both for joining me again today. And 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@ACC.
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