Community Colleges

'Practitioner Packet' Offers Maps for CC Pathways

As of this spring, about 250 community colleges around the country have joined the movement to develop "guided pathways" as part of accelerating student success. Now, those schools and others have a new set of resources to get a broader view of approaches, what's succeeding and how to measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

The idea of guided pathways first came to the forefront in a 2015 research-project-turned-book, which found that the traditional "cafeteria" style of allowing students to choose from "dozens or hundreds of programs" hasn't served them well. In that model, students are often left to sort out scheduling, requirements and possible transfer opportunities on their own. While advising services are available, not everybody takes advantage of them, especially those who come from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds and may not understand how to maneuver through the college experience.

The guided pathway model involves mapping programs to specific course sequences, progress milestones and learning outcomes that spell out what a student needs to know to prepare for a given career or additional education.

As a new set of openly available reports from the Community College Research Center explained, "With program maps as guides, students are supported from the very beginning of their college experience to explore career and academic options, choose a program of study, and develop a full-program educational plan. The program maps simplify students' decision-making, and their academic plans motivate them by showing them what they have accomplished and how much further they have to go to complete their programs."

The content in this "practitioner packet" is divided up. Part 1 provides background, lays out the basic concepts and offers "promising evidence" from pioneers in the pathway movement showing increased momentum for first-year students as well as higher on-time graduation rates.

Part 2 provides three case studies profiling colleges that are part of the American Association of Community Colleges' Pathways Project. The profiles include details about how each college approaches its pathways practices and offer metrics.

Indicators of credit momentum at Cleveland State Community College, one of the institutions profiled in Part 2 of the "What We are Learning about Guided Pathways" series from the Community College Research Center.

Part 3 consists of a suggested timeline for the processes making up the lifecycle for pathways adoption. The report also covers costs associated with implementing pathways.

In June, CCRC expects to release a fourth paper explaining how to use a template to assess progress toward adoption of "essential guided pathways practices at scale." The template is already available.

Links to each report is available on the CCRC website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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