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CETL High Impact Practices: Learning Communities


Learning Communities - George D. Kuh

"The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature service learning." 

Is the high impact practice available to and encouraged/required for all students in the Pathway? (Do all/most participate?)

Will every student in the Pathway have access/participate in at least 2 high impact practices in their first year at CCBC?

"Cafeteria College" to Guided Pathways


"Cafeteria College" to Guided Pathways

Deb Poese, Director of Teacher Education Partnerships, Mathematics Faculty

Montgomery College, MD 


In 1996, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) was founded at Teachers College, Columbia University, to serve as an independent center devoted to the study of these colleges. Over the years they have supported a variety of programs, including most significantly the Achieving the Dream (ATD) initiative, all of which led to the release of the 2015 report, Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success.

Describing the current models at most community colleges as a "cafeteria college" where the students who are least prepared to make choices are expected to choose among multitudes of programs, courses and activities, the authors argue for the need for more structured "guided pathways" models to support student success and completion: "The redesigned program pathways...provide a structure around which colleges can engage faculty and staff to rethink and improve the effectiveness of student support, instruction, and intake...."

In this approach, courses are presented as part of structured "program maps" which are organized into broad areas of study (such as business, visual and performing arts, STEM, human services, or liberal arts) in which students can then explore specific careers. All students must select one area and enroll into "default" programs which can be altered by student choice, rather than allowing the student to wander through the course offerings choosing schedules without guidance.

A specific area of focus for improvement is the student success course. Noting that the course is often delivered as a one-credit course with a laundry list of required content ranging from college policies to study skills to financial literacy, it is argued that it rarely provides students with the ability to build on the skills to apply them in more-advanced courses: "For student success courses to be effective, instructors need to teach students how to apply the information they learn to their own lives and goals...[they] must be skilled teachers who are comfortable with interactive, reflective, and guided practice pedagogies."

A major section of the writing is devoted to helping underprepared students and analyzing the research on effective developmental program models. The authors argue strongly in favor of accelerated models of development education, such as the Carnegie Pathways programs, along with integrating the needed support directly into programs of study, particularly in career-technical education, such as the I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) model at Washington State University.

There are many familiar elements of past reforms highlighted in this writing, but this is readily acknowledged: "Higher education has entered a period of intense experimentation and innovation in which a variety of reform-oriented proposals and initiatives jockey for the attention of individual colleges and state systems. Rather than seeing the guided pathways model as yet another competing reform, we believe the model provides a framework around which to structure and focus many of these reforms..."

Bailey, T. R., Smith, J. S., & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America's community colleges: A clearer path to student success. 


Recent Scholarly Literature - Learning Communities

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