ERIC Identifier: ED477909
Publication Date: 2002-10-00
Author: Sheldon, Caroline Q.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges Los Angeles
Building an Instructional Framework for Effective Community College Developmental
Education. ERIC Digest.
Research reveals that exemplary developmental education programs operate
within established instructional environments where value and high expectations
for positive student outcomes take precedence (Boylan, 2002; Roueche &
Roueche, 1999). In spite of these findings, the majority of community colleges
offer fragmented developmental education programs (Shults, 2000). In order
to flourish, community college developmental education, defined in this
context as "courses or services provided for the purpose of helping underprepared
college students attain their academic goals," (Boylan, 2002, p. 3) requires
college presidents, trustees, and chief academic officers to play a central
role in creating the instructional framework conducive to successful developmental
education outcomes. These high-level administrators foster a culture of
success by insisting that faculty, staff, and students endeavor to meet
institutional expectations in developmental education. In their studies
of exemplary practices, both Boylan (2002) and Roueche and Roueche (1999)
concluded that positive student outcomes were more likely to be achieved
when institutional leaders established high standards for success, expected
everyone involved in the developmental education effort to strive toward
achieving program goals, as well as created the opportunity for success
by crafting the instructional framework most beneficial to student outcomes.
An effective developmental education instructional framework necessitates
that community colleges adopt a philosophy of practice shared by institutional
stakeholders across instructional boundaries. Research by Grubb (2001)
supports the idea of directed, coordinated developmental education programs
rather than reliance on "individual and idiosyncratic efforts" to achieve
institutional outcomes (p. 2). This digest offers community college academic
leaders a synopsis of the key components necessary for building an instructional
framework advantageous to a successful developmental education effort.
Specific emphasis is placed on program structure, faculty, and program
improvement. Although vital, the consideration of the full range of programs,
services, and approaches impacting student outcomes in developmental education,
including assessment and placement of students, "bridge" courses linking
developmental course content with college level subjects, limitations on
developmental student credit hour loads, counseling, and instructional
support services is beyond the scope of this digest.
STRUCTURING FOR SUCCESS: PROGRAM LEADERSHIP AND COORDINATION
Although centralization of developmental education under one academic unit
has been identified as a feature of most exemplary developmental education
programs, it is not a prerequisite to success (Boylan, 2002). The benefits
of a centralized program can still be achieved within the decentralized
developmental education structure that characterizes the majority of community
colleges as long as there is a shared, "coherent philosophy" of teaching
developmental education (Grubb, 2001, p.2). Critical to the establishment
of a coherent philosophy of teaching and the effectiveness of the decentralized
structure is "coordination of developmental courses and services by an
administrator with primary responsibility for campus-wide developmental
education" (Boylan, 2002, p. 11). For the decentralized model to be effective,
someone must be sanctioned to coordinate the program across instructional
boundaries in accordance with teaching philosophy and institutional expectations.
Without an effective and accountable leader, a decentralized program is
likely to have a mediocre impact. Boylan (2002) identifies the following
additional traits particular to successful, highly coordinated developmental
* regular meetings of all those involved in the delivery of developmental
courses and services,
* articulation of common goals and objectives for all developmental
courses and services, and
* integration of developmental courses and academic support services.
BUILDING A COMMITTED FACULTY
First and foremost, exemplary community college developmental education
programs utilize faculty with a demonstrated commitment to the value of
developmental education in general and developmental students in particular.
In High Stakes High Performance: Making Remedial Education Work (1999),
John and Suanne Roueche argue that the success of developmental students
is predicated upon "faculty attitude and competence" (p. 26). Research
by Boylan (2002) and Cooke (1998) also associates negative attitudes of
faculty toward developmental education and students with poor developmental
program outcomes. For community college developmental education to be successful,
it is critical that faculty have a clear understanding and commitment to
the philosophy and objectives of developmental education championed by
the institution. Best practice institutions assign faculty to developmental
education courses after they have been oriented to the institutional philosophy
of teaching developmental education and institutional expectations for
student outcomes such as successful completion of courses, progression
through the developmental curriculum, and the achievement of individual
student academic goals (Boylan, 2002).
The strength of developmental education teaching has also been
identified as essential to improved student outcomes in developmental education
programs. However, only a minority of community colleges require their
developmental education faculty, part-time or full-time, to have training
specific to teaching developmental education prior to instructing developmental
students (Shults, 2000). Indeed, the prerequisite for teaching in most
community colleges is a master's degree in an academic discipline (Cohen
& Brawer, 2002).
Community colleges can build a faculty committed to developmental education
through hiring practices and on-the-job training opportunities for new
and existing faculty. When able to hire new instructors, community colleges
committed to developmental education place a high priority on hiring faculty
with specific training and experience in developmental instruction (Boylan,
2002). Because many of the faculty who teach developmental education are
part-time instructors (Shults, 2000), it is critical that hiring practices,
for both part-time and full-time faculty, reflect the institution's commitment
to developmental education (Roueche & Roueche, 1999). Exemplary developmental
education programs in the community college emphasize "significant classroom
experience and a broad repertoire of teaching techniques" when hiring faculty
to teach developmental education (Roueche & Roueche, 1999, p. 26).
Professional development for faculty is one way colleges not in a position
to hire new faculty, or unable to find faculty with significant classroom
developmental education experience, can achieve parity with colleges employing
more experienced developmental education instructors. Based on his review
of the research, Boylan (2002) states that professional development should
include training designed to provide experience with and exposure to a
variety of developmental education teaching strategies, such as mastery
learning, collaborative learning, small group work, and classroom assessment
techniques. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Community College Developmental
Education Committee identified continuous training opportunities for faculty
as a program characteristic correlated with student success (Lizotte, 1998).
Faculty at exemplary institutions are also encouraged to (1) join professional
organizations specifically dealing with the instruction of developmental
education students and (2) share teaching techniques, strategies, and classroom
assessment practices (Roueche & Roueche, 1999). Boylan (2002) states
that in best practice institutions, in-service training is provided to
all faculty, including part-timers, so that they can meet institutional
expectations for developmental education. And, exemplary developmental
education programs are dedicated to the discipline of instruction within
the context of developmental education and support instruction as a profession.
PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT THROUGH SYSTEMATIC EVALUATION
Faculty and staff at exemplary developmental education programs not only
keep informed regarding the latest research-based best practices in developmental
education, but manage program improvement through comprehensive, systematic
program evaluation that includes both formative evaluation measures designed
to improve program quality and summative evaluation measures aimed at assessing
program impact and outcomes (Boylan, 2002; Roueche & Roueche, 1999).
Previous research indicates that formative evaluation is an essential part
of the evaluation process in community college developmental education
because it represents faculty and staff commitment to a continuous quality
improvement effort (Boylan, 2002). Maximally effective developmental education
programs regularly schedule program evaluation activities that include
measurements of program effort, such as the number of courses offered,
short-term outcomes, such as successful course completion rates, and long-term
outcomes, such as graduation rates and grade point averages (Boylan, Bonham,
White, & George, 2000).
The open access mission of community colleges guarantees that community
colleges will serve more developmental students in future years. How well
community colleges serve these students and achieve improved institutional
outcomes in developmental education will depend upon the instructional
framework within which community colleges offer developmental education
programs and services. Based upon a review of the literature concerning
exemplary practices in developmental education programs, it seems important
that community college leaders dedicate resources to creating the environment
and authority to coordinate decentralized programs; assemble, train, and
develop a cadre of dedicated faculty; and evaluate and continuously improve
the developmental education effort. Such a directed effort is likely to
result in greater progress toward improving outcomes for students, programs,
and ultimately, institutions.
Boylan, H. (2002). What works: Research-based best practices in developmental
education. Boone: NC. Continuous Quality Improvement Network. National
Center for Developmental Education.
Boylan, H., Bonham, B., White, R., & George, A. (2000). Evaluation
of college reading and study strategies programs. In R. Flippo & D.
Caverly (Eds.), Handbook
of college reading and study strategy research (pp. 365-402). Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.
Cooke, C. (1998). Changing state policy in Texas for remedial/developmental
education. Austin: TX. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Number ED 415 945).
Grubb, W. N. (2001, February). From black box to pandora's box: Evaluating
remedial/developmental education. Community College Research Center Brief.
(ERIC Document Reproduction Number ED 455 865).
Lizotte, R. (1998). Access and quality: Improving the performance of
community college developmental education programs. Boston: MA. Massachusetts
Community College Developmental Education Committee. (ERIC Document Reproduction
Number ED 428 785).
McCabe, R. (2001, February). Developmental education: A policy primer.
Leadership Abstracts, 14(1). The League for Innovation in the Community
Shults, C. (2000). Remedial education: Practices and policies in community
colleges. Washington, D.C. American Association of Community Colleges Research
Brief. (ERIC Document Reproduction Number ED 448 811).
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