Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

COMMENTARY: Characterizing the Effectiveness of Developmental Education: A Response to Recent Criticism

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

COMMENTARY: Characterizing the Effectiveness of Developmental Education: A Response to Recent Criticism

Article excerpt

Over the past several years, the Community College Research Center (CCRC), the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR), MDRC, and other researchers and research organizations have conducted several research studies and reviews on developmental education (see http://ccrc. tc.columbia.edu/Developmental-Education-and-Adult-Basic-Skills.html). In a recent issue of the Journal of Developmental Education, Alexandras Goudas and Hunter Boylan (2012) aimed several criticisms at this body of work, with the key claims being that: (a) we unfairly portray developmental education as ineffective because it does not lead to outcomes better than those of college-ready students; (b) we ignore several studies showing positive results; and (c) we overgeneralize from results that are only valid for students near the developmental cutoff scores. These three claims are woven into a broader critique that we have "cherrypicked" negative results, neglected methodological problems with the studies yielding such results, and ignored positive results in order to advance our own reform agenda and, in particular, to support the notion of corequisite developmental education. (In the corequisite model, developmental students enroll in college-level courses and in the same term are provided additional academic support, which might include enrollment in a companion course or workshop that is linked to the college-level course for which they are weakly prepared.)

In this commentary, we address each of the claims advanced by Goudas and Boylan (2012). We disagree with their portrayal of our research as biased and flawed, yet we also believe that their comments may reflect some widespread confusion in the field about research on developmental education, so our response has significance beyond our particular disagreements with these authors. However, before addressing their claims, we wish to clarify a critical point.

We value and appreciate the challenging and important work performed by developmental education faculty within the classroom. Faced with underprepared students, these instructors can make a substantial positive difference in the academic and personal lives of the people they teach. We do not dispute this reality. However, this reality coexists with another one suggested by the research: The traditional system of assessment, placement, and developmental coursework has negative side effects (at the very least, developmental coursework takes time and resources and may discourage students) which, when considering the developmental population as a whole, tend to balance out its positive effects.

Although our research concludes that the current system of developmental education needs improvement, we do not advocate-nor do we believe that the results of our research support- the elimination of developmental education, the placing of all students into college courses, or the wholesale conversion of developmental education into a corequisite model. We do think, however, that community colleges can more effectively help students who arrive with academic and nonacademic weaknesses that impede success. We recognize that improvements will draw heavily on the skill and experience of today's developmental faculty, but they cannot do it alone. We contend that the system of developmental education needs reform. Moreover, we are optimistic about the many exciting and innovative reforms being implemented in states and colleges all over the country. These reforms include changes in assessment, placement, financial aid, connections to high schools, links to college-level programs, curricular content, student supports, and pedagogy.

We also want to clarify our use of the term developmental education. Most of the research we cite refers to students who were referred to developmental education based on their scores on placement exams. Therefore those students could take advantage of all of the services provided by the college to students with weak academic skills, including developmental courses or other types of tutoring or non-credit assistance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.