deliverers of education had best change
with them or face extinction.
Gone are the days when students
showed up to take random courses for
a few years before deciding on a degree.
Students were wasting too much money
and graduating with far more credits
and debt than needed. Modern students
need and want more direction and degree
pathways that are clear, adaptable, easy to
follow, and easy to plan around in their
often busy lives. As a result, colleges need
to rethink advising, course scheduling
and course delivery. Colleges must evolve
with the changing student populations.
It does no good to remember the
“good old days” when students were
perhaps better prepared and more
enthusiastic about a college degree,
when they did well with lectures
involving a blackboard and piece of
chalk, and when grades were based on
a few exams. Current students have
grown up under a different educational
system than many of the professors who
teach them. Grades in secondary schools
are often spread across a variety of
assignment types with flexible due dates.
Today’s students have also grown up in a
different world culturally: where almost
everything is a click or Google Talk away,
where social media are important, and
where a student can download an app
to solve an algebra equation. We know
through research that students need
to see value in assignments, the ability
to succeed, to have choice, and receive
feedback quickly. It is easy for us to
complain and to remain in the era we
grew up in while the students we teach
are in a very different era. However, we
are going to go extinct if we stay there
and choose not to co-evolve or to run just
as fast as we can or faster.
It is time to evolve and to rethink
higher education in a way that matches
the pace of our evolving student popula-
tion. The pace of evolution is no longer the
same in education: it has accelerated. The
fossil record is littered with “punctuations”
Luckily, the ability to change resides
with us—we can choose to evolve. We
must open our minds to education
research and to new trends like the
Pathways Project. We must not dismiss
the ever-evolving world we live in and
assume students will de-evolve to the
world we grew up in. We cannot ask
a modern-day species to evolve away
from current local conditions. Let us
not remain in the comfort zone of the
way things were but let us co-evolve
with the way things are.
Jack Brown is a biology instructor at Paris Junior College in
PROGRESS BEING MADE WITH PATHWAYS PROJECT
One year into their intensive work on pathways design and
implementation—at scale, for all credit students—the AACC
Pathways Colleges are intensely on task and making notable
progress. According to findings from the Community College
Research Center, drawn from site visits to a sample of project
colleges and other broader assessments across all 30 project
colleges, progress in the work can be briefly described in ways
including the following.
Central to the guided pathways approach is the development of
clear and coherent pathways for students.
• All of the Pathways colleges have established broad career-focused fields or “meta-majors” as the framework for their
program mapping efforts. These clusters of related majors
are variously called “communities of interest,” “academic
and career pathways,” “schools,” “institutes” and so on.
• Pathways colleges have committed to having program maps in
place for all entering students by fall 2018.
• Many project colleges involve employers and university
partners in the mapping process, gaining feedback to ensure
alignment of pathways with jobs, careers, and transfer.
Helping students choose and enter a path
Under the Pathways model, colleges redesign their entering
student experience to help students explore career and
college options and choose a meta-major or program of study
• As part of the intake process, colleges are progressing toward
requiring students to develop a full-program academic plan by
the end of their first term, or by the second term at the latest.
• A number of Pathways colleges are redesigning their websites
to show meta-majors/program maps and their connection to
specific employment, career and transfer opportunities.
Helping students stay on path
Colleges implementing pathways typically need to redesign
their advising systems to help students progress through their
program plans, to intervene when they are struggling and to help
students consider a new direction when they change their minds
or do not progress on their initial path. All of the AACC Pathways
colleges are taking steps to strengthen advising to help students
make timely progress on their program plans.
As the colleges move through the Pathways Institute series
as a cohort, they have developed a learning community, relying
on one another for implementation support, lessons learned and
on-the-ground ex-amples for faculty, staff and administrators.
For more information, see CCRC’s progress report:
“Community Colleges Redesigning: Early Insights on
Implementing Guided Pathways from the AACC Pathways
Colleges (April 2016).”