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AAC&U Working to Strengthen Guided Pathways in Community Colleges

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An organization that focuses on advancing liberal education to all students has announced a two-year student guided pathways project. The idea for "Strengthening Guided Pathways and Career Success by Ensuring Students Are Learning" is to build institutional capacity for defining "clear and coherent pathways" for degree completion and strengthen student learning at community colleges.

The endeavor is being undertaken by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which will work with the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. The two organizations will seek some 20 community colleges to participate. They'll be chosen through a proposal process, which will be launched this month.

"Guided pathways" is the term used to describe a framework of efforts with four big ideas:

  • Program pathways map up to student goals;
  • Students are helped in choosing and entering their pathway;
  • Effort is made to keep students on their paths; and
  • Work is put in to make sure students are continuously progressing in their learning.

The idea was originally articulated in a book co-authored by AAC&U Board Member Thomas Bailey, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University. Based on an intensive study of community colleges over many years, Redesigning America's Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success has suggested that increasing student completion of degree programs will require community colleges to undergo "fundamental redesign," away from the current model of "cafeteria-style self-service" and toward the building of capacity for enabling creation of the guided pathways.

"This collaborative project will support and align with existing guided pathways efforts, with a particular focus on the development of a scalable faculty-led teaching, learning and assessment model that promotes the completion of high-quality degrees and credentials that will fully prepare students for lifelong and career success," said Tia Brown McNair, AAC&U's vice president for diversity, equity and student success, in a statement.

Both organizations "have studied and worked in the space of effective teaching practices, but this is a new narrative as we look through the lens of guided pathways and learn what colleges are doing and want to do," added Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement.

AAC&U will be working on the project with the many institutions and programs that make up the Pathways Collaborative and convening an advisory group of experts to help reach its goals.

The project is being funded with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Ascendium Education Group. For more information, visit the AAC&U website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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