Next Steps for the Community College

Next Steps for the Community College

Next Steps for the Community College

Next Steps for the Community College


This issue provides an overview of the relevant contemporary literature and practice in areas of major concern to community colleges: transfer rates, vocational education, remedial and developmental education, English as a second language, assessment of student learning, student services, faculty and staff, and governance and policy. It also includes a discussion of the categories, types, and purposes of literature about community college educators, administrators, and scholars.

Practitioners and researchers alike are hard-pressed to keep abreast of rapidly changing expectations for and from community colleges. Using literature and research to inform practice has many advantages. The intent of this issue is twofold: first, to review recent research on topics of importance, highlighting consensus and contradictions in the literature, and second, to identify critical challenges community colleges face and present practical options for meeting them that are supported by the findings in the literature.

This is the 117th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Community Colleges.


Trudy H. Bers, Harriott D. Calhoun

The research literature on community colleges is varied
in nature, purpose, content, and accessibility to audiences
such as the scholarly community and practitioners.
Variations in the literature indicate an unfortunate gap
between practice and research.

This chapter provides an overview of the categories, types, and purposes of the literature on community colleges and the major publications germane to community college practitioners and scholars. The overview indicates a gap between perceptions in the research community and perceptions among practitioners regarding the important topics for research and publication.

Categories of Literature

The literature on community colleges falls into a variety of categories, although no standard set exists. We propose the following categories: informative and promotional research (with little or no analysis), advisory research (what “should” be done), descriptive research, and scholarly research. Categories overlap; the same research project might be reported in multiple publications, each directed to a different audience.

Informative and Promotional Research. This literature tends to be produced by single institutions or consortia, primarily to promote or gain recognition for a particular program, service, or process. Work is generally descriptive; the depth of discussion and amount of detail vary with the audience and publication. Because the intent is to present the institution in a positive light and to appeal to lay readers and practitioners, articles are often enhanced with anecdotes, quotations, and photographs. Publication outlets include magazine-like journals such as the AACC Community College Journal, institutional publications such as newsletters and annual reports, and press releases.

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