Academic advising

Women in Education Leadership Summit

Mon, 06/18/2018 to Fri, 06/22/2018


169-179 Thomas St Novotel Sydney Central
Sydney , New South Wales 2000

Learning Summit - Houston

Fri, 04/20/2018 to Sat, 04/21/2018


Houston , Texas
United States

14th Annual Summer Session on Contemplative Learning in Higher Education

Sun, 08/05/2018 to Fri, 08/10/2018


Smith College
Northampton , Massachusetts
United States

North Carolina community college's elimination of D's leads to transfer success

Transfer rates at North Carolina's Stanly Community College increased after the college made the simple grading change of no longer awarding D's.

2-Day Intensive: International Transfer Credit Workshop

Sat, 07/07/2018 to Sun, 07/08/2018


1300 Nicollet Mall Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
Minneapolis , Minnesota 55403
United States

A president explores the most effective ways to conduct remedial education (opinion)

A significant number of students who begin college with two to four semesters of required, noncredit remedial courses never make it to the first for-credit gateway course, according to Complete College America, but instead drop out. The situation is particularly discouraging for students who test on the cusp of moving into introductory for-credit courses. Many colleges are studying better ways to serve these students.

At Governors State University, we are focusing on corequisite remediation, infusing additional support into the first-year experience, rather than requiring that students take noncredit classes before enrolling in real courses. Much of what we do in developmental education is based on common sense and experience. Faculty members are committed to meeting students where they are.

That sounds like a simple mantra, but it is actually highly complex. How do we gain knowledge of where students are so that we can meet them there? The first step depends on educating our own imaginations. In his novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens warned 19th-century educators not to view students as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with facts. Yet professors, especially those in developmental courses, may unconsciously adhere to that false metaphor. Or, even worse, they imagine that the students’ heads are filled with all the wrong things -- junk that must be expurgated.

We use a strength-based model of instruction at our institution. During the first week of this year’s Smart Start summer developmental program in writing and math, I was deeply gratified when I visited a writing class and asked students how things were going. Several hands went up (in itself a happy surprise). The student I called on said (with a degree of enthusiasm not frequently exhibited by students required to end their summer early for two intensive weeks of developmental work), “This class is great because my professor is showing me that I know things.” And that’s the essence of meeting students where they are and of the strength-based model.

Common-Sense Principles

At our university, one of the common-sense principles that we apply to both developmental and gateway courses is that students should learn to write by writing. From our Smart Start program through first-year writing and beyond, students are actually writing, revising, rewriting, editing and, most important, reading and rereading what they have written. Critical reading of one’s own early drafts is one of the skills that are truly basic to learning to write. Our instructors are intentional about teaching this fundamental practice.

In writing instruction, student and teacher often engage in a tacit contest over responsibility for the text. Students want to get the assignment, for good or ill (usually ill), on the instructor’s desk as soon as possible, leading to the submission of unread prose. The instructor, dedicated to student development in writing, too often accepts responsibility as the student’s proofreader, editor or even co-author.

Yet the essence of successful writing instruction is to perfect the role of teacher -- one who instills in students responsibility for their own work. Doing so is a challenging task. It’s human nature to want to be done with a difficult project. I recall my own experience in writing a chapter for publication in a book edited by a superb editor. He kept sending the chapter back to me, always with excellent suggestions for revision. Finally, I said to him outright that I no longer wanted the chapter to be better -- I simply wanted it to be done. If an experienced and confident writer can react in that childish way, how much more must we have patience with novice writers who simply want to be done?

We also provide incentives at our institution for our students’ first writing assignment, a literacy autobiography. Students are asked to write profiles of themselves as writers and readers. This assignment is an excellent way for instructors to know where students are so that they can meet them there. The assignment also encourages reflection on the initial narration. Students revise the assignment throughout the academic year and, in the second semester, can submit final versions for monetary awards.

My husband and I personally fund those awards, because we believe so much in the process. From a presidential perspective, I also regard this support as my microphone to communicate the importance of first-year writing. The heavily revised literacy autobiography gives form to the concept of meeting students where they are and challenging them to move forward.

To encourage sympathy for the novice, I also have a general recommendation for all instructors: periodically, try to learn something that you have no natural aptitude for. For me that something was always easy to find because I have no propensity for anything athletic. My eighth-grade gym instructor required what looked to me to be contortions on the rings, ropes and stall bars. I tried and tried, even arriving at school to practice in the early morning hours before my regular class schedule, but to no avail. The gym instructor gave me a D, keeping me off the distinguished honor roll -- something that still stings decades later.

But even that did not deter me from trying to participate in sports. As an adult teaching college composition, I tried to learn to ski. My friends skied frequently in Killington, Vt., and I wanted to be in the party. I opted for private lessons with Sven the expert Killington ski instructor. I realized that I had to tell him up front that he would have to show me how to do things that he never thought he would have to explain to a functioning adult. He was not a good teacher. But his sneering attitude taught me an important lesson about my own teaching of composition: don’t judge students who have to struggle to learn what comes easily to you. Frequent lessons in humility and empathy would improve not only ski instruction but also remedial/developmental education.

Another common-sense element in successful remediation is to avoid making students feel stupid -- and that doesn’t involve coddling them. Instructors are proud of their own fluency and may be tempted to model their expertise to impress students. I recall the classic story about the 19th-century woman who met with the two great British prime ministers Gladstone and Disraeli. She commented that her meeting with Gladstone led her to believe that she had just met the smartest person on earth. Her meeting with Disraeli, however, made her think that she herself was an intelligent and interesting person. Students learn more from Disraeli-like instructors than they do from the Gladstone type.

Redesigning Math Pathways

When it comes to remediation in math, figuring out the appropriate requirement for students is crucial. Gearing math requirements to students’ general career directions, called metamajors by Complete College America, would remove significant barriers to student success, while providing rigorous preparation in mathematical thinking that was actually relevant to students’ future achievements.

For example, research conducted at the City University of New York demonstrates significantly higher success rates for “remedial” students following a statistics pathway rather than those assigned to the traditional route to calculus through intermediate algebra. It’s interesting to note that a number of scientific fields do not require calculus.

Reform in math pathways should begin in high school. Across the country, 11th graders who don’t do well in intermediate algebra are told that they are not college material. Many high-stakes math tests focus on concepts in intermediate algebra, creating insurmountable barriers for students who might be on track for success in the majority of leadership careers that require statistics rather than algebra.

Many states that endorse core courses for transfer to any college or university already build in a choice between the calculus pathway and the statistics pathway. At Governors State, students in two of our three freshman learning communities take statistics, and those in the third take precalculus. We advise students accordingly and send them on, in the words of Uri Treisman, a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, the “stat-way to heaven” -- or at least on the road to a leadership career.

Teaching to Strengths

Instructors in developmental courses must also exercise a high level of analysis to identify and motivate students to build on their strengths. That’s easier said than done: it’s far more difficult to identify and articulate what someone is doing right than to point out what is going wrong.

Yet research by Shaun Harper, executive director of the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center, as well as the Gallup organization, bears out the importance of this approach. Harper studied programs in operation from 1997 to 2012 designed specifically to improve the college performance of African-American men and found vast differences between “intended” and “actual” effects. In Men of Color in Higher Education, he argues that the “near exclusive focus on problems … inadvertently reinforced a hopeless, deficit-oriented narrative.” He calls for detailed studies of the one-third of black men who did complete college rather than dwelling on the two-thirds who did not.

Harper calls for meaningfully engaging black undergraduate men “as collaborators and … experts in designing, implementing and assessing campus initiatives.” The most important point in his research is that “fixing the student” does not work. Instead we must look at transforming universities so that students will have a better chance of succeeding.

In fact, extensive research by Gallup demonstrates that the strength model is effective at institutions of all types for all students, from those in developmental courses to those in honors sections. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, “Great Jobs, Great Lives,” studied more than 30,000 college graduates across America. One indicator of success is college completion, so studying graduates is a starting point in discovering the strengths that led them to succeed.

It’s important to note that Gallup and Purdue avoided simplistic and misleading measures of success -- for example, salaries for first jobs. Instead, they “created an index that examines long-term success of graduates as they pursue a good job and a better life.” Great Jobs, Great Lives elaborates: “For example, if graduates had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in their well-being.”

Gallup invites “a national dialogue on improving the college experience,” with professors making assignments that build on students’ strengths and encourage real-life applications of classroom learning.

All this is why, from the beginning of their college experience at Governors State, students become part of a community focused on what is right with them rather than what is wrong. In addition to courses in writing and/or in math, the Smart Start program requires students to take a one-credit course, Mastering College, which guides each one through the Clifton StrengthsFinder and uses StrengthsQuest as a program guide.

All freshmen also benefit from teams of advisers and counselors. Peer mentors, cohort advisers, career specialists, writing consultants, library liaisons, digital learning experts, psychological counselors and faculty members from the Center for the Junior Year are assigned to each freshman/sophomore cohort. The idea is to integrate support into every student’s experience rather than sending “deficient” students to special treatment centers to cure their difficulties. The clear message is that asking for help is not a display of weakness, exposing students’ deficits, but instead a mature approach to learning and growing. Active engagement with the support teams builds on students’ strengths.

Our ACHIEVE Program is open to all freshmen but mandatory for students requiring special support. This corequisite remediation offers tutoring sessions for English and math. Faculty members track student progress through monitoring attendance, attitude and participation. Midterm grades provide an early-warning system.

These academic measures are complemented by a full-scale, intentional commitment in student life to the strengths-based model. Talking circles and leadership seminars are available to the student body in general and also to segmented groups, respecting the idea that in some instances women, men, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community may find it easier to discover and capitalize on their strengths in confidential, protected conversations.

Focusing on students’ strengths does not involve spoon-feeding, condescension or false praise for trivial accomplishments. It’s difficult. It’s revolutionary. But it is necessary.

Finally, while we are willing at Governors State to do everything possible to accelerate preparation for college success, we realize that some students may need more time and attention than we can provide. We must admit that we have not come up with approaches for students with deeper developmental needs. Instead, we recommend that they go elsewhere -- and they unfortunately may wind up going nowhere.

Thus, looking ahead, more research, especially cross-disciplinary research, is necessary. For example, how might we apply the findings of neuroscience to learning in general and to remediation in particular? Also, we know that we are teaching students who have experienced homelessness, violence and other traumas. How do we tailor remediation under these circumstances to help traumatized students address academic challenges? We offer small grants to faculty members willing to research such issues, and the educational world needs large-scale investment in cross-disciplinary scholarship and research teams. But the first steps are to have the vision and courage to rethink remediation.

Elaine P. Maimon is president of Governors State University. This essay was adapted from her new book, Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation (Stylus Publishing, 2018).

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Two practical recommendations for improving remediation (essay)

The problems surrounding remedial college requirements have been receiving a lot of attention lately. The conversation often focuses on the rising costs students pay for these classes and the high attrition rates.

The fact is that many students who enter community colleges need remediation. A 2016 study by the Center for Community College Engagement found 68 percent of students enter with at least one developmental class requirement. A report by Education Reform Now diagnoses the main problem as a deficient high school education that underprepares students to enter college-level courses. But community colleges play a significant role in locking students into these courses by outdated approaches to placement testing and by failing to alert and inform students about the college entrance exam.

Many students entering community colleges show up to take college placement tests in reading, writing and math with little to no preparation. They do not know what is at stake: performing poorly lands students in remedial classes that will cost them a lot of money and significantly increase the chances that they will drop out.

When students don’t do well on the SAT or ACT, they can pay to take the test again. But community college placement exams usually do not allow retesting and students are stuck with remediation if they have scored poorly on their first attempt. Indeed, an average student who shows up to take the college placement exam with no preparation will land in multiple levels of remediation in math, reading and writing. A student with such remedial requirements will have to complete 24 (non)-credits of class time. It will take a full-time student one year to complete those requirements, draining their financial aid for credit-bearing classes and weakening their resolve to stay in college.

As members of community-based organizations in the Bronx, we work with low-income, first-generation college students, and we are acutely aware of the issues surrounding community college placement-testing practices. Many of the students with whom we work -- students with high school equivalency degrees, returning adult students and students attending night school (Young Adult Borough Centers) to earn their diplomas -- require significant educational intervention to pass the college placement exam.

Our advocacy group, Bronx Opportunity Network, consists of seven community-based organizations working toward college persistence and completion for Bronx residents. We provide college-level instruction to help our students start college with the least amount of remediation possible. We have been collaborating with City University of New York community colleges, in particular, to help improve their remediation programs.

Bringing in students with fewer remedial requirements is an especially pressing issue for CUNY colleges because of the expansion of ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) in CUNY institutions. Students in ASAP receive more academic and financial supports to ensure they graduate within three years, but they’re only eligible if they have no more than one remedial requirement. A study of incoming students in 2016 at Bronx Community College by the Office of Institutional Research and Testing reported that only 9 percent of students who took the college placement test were exempt from remediation -- leaving 91 percent of incoming students in remediation.

Through our collaborative work with CUNY, we have developed strategies to shift students seamlessly from our college-bridge programs into college. One major coordinated effort is that our students can take a group retest of the college placement exam after completing a bridge program. That agreement allows us to know where our students score initially and to tailor our curriculum so they learn what they need to pass the college placement exam.

Another initiative invites students to test out of remediation once they’re in college through free summer and winter intensive math and writing workshops at the community colleges. We send our students to CUNY colleges in cohorts to increase the sense of community and accountability, helping them to persist together. And those of us who work in community-based organizations and also serve as adjunct professors at CUNY community colleges teach first-year seminar classes so that our students continue learning from us on campus. We are pleased with the results so far: our students enter college with fewer remediation requirements, the ability to start earning credits immediately and higher retention rates.

The problem of remediation in our education system should be addressed on a nationwide level. We hope to see a more significant shift away from remediation and toward corequisite classes following the model of Guttman Community College. But until more significant reform occurs, we have two primary recommendations for the collaborative work that community colleges and community-based organizations can do to ameliorate the problem of remediation as it currently stands.

Better inform students about preparation options for the placement exam. Community colleges need to do a better job of informing students about the placement exam and the repercussions of performing poorly. Students who know that they are going to be tested perform better than students who are simply assigned a test date in their admissions letter.

In 2016, the admissions office at Bronx Community College started talking about the importance of preparation for the college placement exam at new students’ information sessions and then scheduled students for test-prep workshops automatically instead of making it optional. After instituting that practice, they saw a significant increase (an estimated 10 percent) in students testing out of the lowest level of remediation. It should be noted that the test-prep workshop offered by Bronx Community College and Hostos Community College focuses on test-taking strategies and computer use, not on academic preparation.

Also, since community colleges don’t prepare students academically to take the exam, we recommend that they route students to agencies that offer college-bridge services. Community-based organizations have the capacity to prepare students to start college, and community colleges need this service. We know that better coordination of those referrals will help more students enter college with fewer remedial requirements.

Allow students to retest after they have received interventional instruction. Students should not be locked into courses based on their initial placement test scores. In higher education, we don’t require that the ACT and SAT be taken only once, and we shouldn’t be putting such restrictions on community college placement exams. Students who perform poorly on their exams should be allowed to retest.

We understand that allowing a retest for all students could significantly flood an already overburdened system. So our recommendation, for now, is that students who enroll in a college-bridge program should be allowed to retest after they have received a certified number of interventional instruction hours. To make that happen, community colleges could certify more community-based organizations to provide interventional instruction and direct students who test into remediation to them.

Meeting students where they are is a significant factor in making sure they stay in college and graduate. Both community colleges and community-based organizations are working to better educate students. We must establish strong collaborative partnerships to deepen our impact as well as to allow students to make use all of the resources available to them.

W. Theory Thompson is the program director of the LifeLink College Bridge and Retention Program for Good Shepherd Services, a nonprofit social service agency in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at Bronx Community College and teaches the first-year seminar, and he has also served as an adjunct professor for the State University of New York at New Paltz in the Black Studies Department. Danae McLeod is the executive director at Grace Outreach, a nonprofit based in the South Bronx working with women to further their educational goals and achieve financial independence. She teaches philosophy, literature and women's studies at SUNY and CUNY campuses, including cohort-based first-year seminars at Bronx Community College.

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AAC&U 2018 Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Democracy

Thu, 03/22/2018 to Sat, 03/24/2018


The Westin Gaslamp 910 Broadway Circle
San Diego , California 92101
United States

Mount Aloysius Conference on College Teaching

Thu, 10/18/2018 to Fri, 10/19/2018


7373 Admiral Peary Hwy
Cresson , Pennsylvania 16630-1902
United States

Leading in the Academic Enterprise Series: Leading People and Organizational Change

Mon, 03/05/2018 to Tue, 03/06/2018


400 Cannery Row Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa
Monterey , California CA 93940 USA
United States


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