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pathways call for streamlined curricula that might lead to the elimination of
some courses, however, college leaders can overcome faculty resistance by
bringing faculty into the decision-making process on course mapping and
implementation of a large transformative reform effort, like pathways, means
it’s absolutely essential for faculty not only to be engaged but to play a
leadership role,” says Gretchen Schmidt, executive director of the Pathways
Project at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
has instituted two initiatives to help colleges support faculty leadership:
St. Petersburg College (SPC) in
Florida, which is one of 30 community colleges selected for AACC’s Pathways
Project, faculty have been deeply involved in aligning all the academic
programs into 10 broad pathways, such as healthcare and business.
pathway has its own sequence of courses, student services, and specific
milestones (such as a capstone project or internship), says Margaret Bowman,
director of curriculum services. By April 2017, the college hopes to have all
pathways in place in time for fall registration.
pathways matterWhen the college started working on career pathways in 2014,
Bowman says, faculty looked at every course in a particular program. For the
associate degree program in business, for example, faculty listed on sticky
notes every course and every prerequisite. They discussed the best way to
start the program, the general competencies students need early on, how to
build on those competencies and how to introduce core concepts in business
then arranged their notes to come up with a list of 20 courses in sequential
was the first baseline snapshot of a pathway,” Bowman says.
much collaborative work with faculty, she says, “they’re at the point that
whenever they make a curriculum change, the first questions are, ‘What is this
going to do to the pathway?’ and ‘What is it going to do to the student
experience as they go through the program?’”
decision about which electives to recommend was based on which courses would
best prepare students for entry into the workforce, Bowman says.
the past, we told students, ‘Pick your options.’ Now, with pathways, we’re
saying if you’re going for an accounting degree, these are the four recommended
electives,” although students aren’t limited to those four.
at Jackson College in Michigan were
involved in the development of pathways from the start, says Provost Rebekah
the college is in the AACC Pathways initiative, it had already created six
pathways as part of an earlier effort spearheaded by the Michigan Community College Association.
essential nature of pathways necessitates the early involvement of faculty in
terms of their consideration of, as well as their leadership, in mapping,
implementation and evaluation of this vital work,” says Jackson College
President Daniel Phelan, who also chairs the AACC board of directors.
active engagement of faculty helps to ensure that the pathways model is
hardwired into the entirety of the educational experience for students, as
opposed to being perceived as the next ‘initiative’ with limited sustainable
staying power,” Phelan says.
success council, made up of faculty and administrators from every department at
Jackson started having conversations about pathways about three years ago, and
that led to the creation of a steering team charged with implementing pathways
with embedded student support services, says Woods, who co-chairs the team.
steering team developed an action plan and timetable and created a leadership
team for each pathway aligned to academic departments.
want to make sure faculty are the champions; they are the face of this work,”
she says. To get faculty buy-in, “they have to believe this is something we
need to do to help our students be successful.”
main hesitation among faculty came from those in the arts and sciences who
feared their classes might not get selected for a pathway – possibly leading to
the loss of their jobs.
is crucual in pathways work“We made it clear to them that while we might
not offer all classes every semester, no one would be laid off and no one would
lose a class,” Woods says.
were also concerns from the faculty that “we were forcing students at a young
age to make decisions in their first semester that would determine the course
of their life without giving them enough tools to make an intelligent choice.”
address that concern, students now take a first-year seminar aligned with their
chosen pathway. The course covers the job outlook, projected salaries and an
opportunity “to connect with faculty and employers to get a sense of what it
would be like to work in that pathway and decide if that is the best fit for you,”
at Sinclair College in Ohio have been
active in developing academic pathways since 2012 as part of the Completion by Design initiative.
pathway has embedded advisors and serves as a template for recommendations on
how individual maps should be created for each student, with a sequence of
courses and electives, says Mary Wells, an associate psychology professor who
is heading the academic part of the pathways effort.
steering committee, comprising faculty and advisors, is assigned to each of the
college’s five career communities – liberal arts and social science, creative
studies, STEM, business and public safety, and healthcare – and each one is
divided into narrower pathways.
goal is to ensure students don’t take the wrong courses – and end up with
credits that won’t transfer or earn more credits than they need.
are lots of choices, and that means there are lots of opportunities to make
poor decisions,” Wells says. “The map is a way to provide guidance and make
sure students know what to do.”
and her colleagues are now working on an “undecided pathway” so students who
don’t know what career they want to pursue can spend a term or two exploring
options. If they’re interested in the broad field of healthcare, for example,
they spend that time exploring options, which helps them decide on nursing,
respiratory care or some other health-related occupation.
piloting the pathways approach five years ago, graduation rates increased about
80 percent, she says, and the average number of credit hours earned decreased
an average of 15.6 per graduate.
Skagit Valley College (SVC) in
Washington, which is in the AACC Pathways Project, faculty and department
chairs have developed a set of meta-majors and are working on course outcomes,
curricula and course sequencing.
group of faculty members are looking at the college’s implementation of a
pathways model “as a way to create a more equitable institution,” says Gretchen
Robertson, a basic skills instructor and facilitator of a faculty group on
inclusive learning pedagogy.
ahead on the Pathways ProjectThe work on pathways includes a strong focus
on the need to recognize how the college is unwittingly putting up barriers
that discourage students from succeeding, Robertson says. Much of that comes
from a lack of transparency in what faculty expects from students.
a pathways approach won’t work if it merely changes the structure of the
college without changing what happens in class, she says.
expect students to come into courses with a understanding of cultural norms,”
Robertson says. If students don’t come from an academic background, they need
to have faculty spell out for them exactly what they need to do to succeed in
class and how they will be graded.
removing unintentional barriers, “we’re still engaged in rigor, inquiry and
critical literacy. Those are important,” she says. “We wanted to break down
those silos, to be intentional about creating a dynamic and full experience for
started a faculty learning community last winter on the “inclusive pedagogy”
concept. “We’re really intentional about making that central to the pathways
work,” she says.
faculty members who had been in that group then started implementing
experimental strategies in class. In one example, a nursing instructor
introduced a “growth mindset” based on research about how students’ attitudes
toward learning and intelligence can promote or inhibit their capacity for
students see intelligence as something fixed that they’re born with – that
they’re either intelligent or not – that inhibits their motivation to succeed
in college, Robertson says. If, on the other hand, students are told “you can
grow your intelligence,” that promotes learning and encourages students “to dig
in and do the work.”
faculty are concerned about the prospect of losing a course they’ve taught for
years on a subject they’re passionate about, Robertson says, “we need to honor
that sense of loss,” while at the time, “look for opportunities to be
intentional in research and design.”
we’re hoping for with our instructors is that they can start to see themselves
as experts in multiple domains – in organizational development, as well their
specific subject,” Robertson says.
want faculty to change their attitudes,” she says, “to think about how pathways
will not just impact my class, but how it will impact the institution as a
whole; to think about ‘our students and our courses,’ not ‘my students and my
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges