Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Exploring Faculty Perceptions of the Impact of Accelerated Developmental Education Courses on Their Pedagogy: A Multidisciplinary Study

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Exploring Faculty Perceptions of the Impact of Accelerated Developmental Education Courses on Their Pedagogy: A Multidisciplinary Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education's 2009 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, approximately 68 percent of students who began at a public two-year college enrolled in one or more developmental courses (Scott-Clayton, 2012). While the numbers of students enrolled in traditional developmental courses in English, Mathematics and Reading is in the majority, students who must take a developmental education course are less likely to graduate than students who are deemed college ready. In fact, nationwide, community colleges lose more than 90% of the students who begin in remedial courses three or more levels below college math, and these students are disproportionately under-represented students of color (Hem & Snell, 2013).

To improve developmental course completion rates, community colleges are altering curricula through various instructional innovations including mainstreaming where students enroll directly into collegelevel courses and are provided additional support through companion classes and curricular redesign and compression where the number of required courses is reduced by eliminating redundant content (Hanover, 2013).

For instance, community colleges have begun experimenting with accelerated developmental education models which allow students to complete remediation and enroll in college-level English and Math within a shorter timeframe (Jaggars, Hodara, Cho, & Xu, 2015). Specifically, acceleration involves the reorganization of instruction and curricula to facilitate the completion of academic requirements in an expedited manner and is an increasingly popular strategy at community colleges for improving the outcomes of developmental education students (Edgecombe, 2011).

These promising reforms require faculty to adjust classroom practice and incorporate backward curriculum design as they teach more heterogeneous student groups and provide scaffolding and support. With backward curriculum design, faculty identify desired results in terms of student competence as demonstrated by successful completion of the credit-level course. Faculty determine acceptable levels of evidence to confirm that the desired results have occurred and design activities that will facilitate the desired results (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Grounded in decentralized instruction and centralized learning, backward curriculum design underpins acceleration, challenging faculty to develop curriculum with a vision of the desired results to shape methods and teaching materials used (Popa, 2009). Barragan & Cormier (2013) also note that teaching accelerated courses requires faculty to fundamentally rethink instructional strategies in ways that promote high expectations, depth of understanding and knowledge transfer to new settings. This influence on teaching is echoed in several other multidisciplinary studies where faculty detail how the accelerated format influences their pedagogy (Jaggars, S., et. al, 2015; Hem, 2012; Grubb & Gabriner, 2012).

Aligned with the increasing body of research documenting the structural components and benefits of developmental education reform efforts though acceleration, preliminary inquiries into the experiences of faculty teaching these redesigned courses have highlighted professional development and faculty collaboration. Bickerstaff & Cormier (2015) asserted that formalized professional development including conversations with colleagues, professional resources and collaborative efforts to develop course assessment and refine curricula provide faculty teaching developmental courses and adopting instructional reforms opportunities to learn both about their students and their teaching. Similarly, Bennett & Bennett's study (2003) revealed that faculty members learn best when granted opportunities to observe new approaches, practice implementing them and access follow-up support well beyond initial implementation. Barragan & Cormier (2013) noted that faculty reported that they were able to better manage the day-to-day challenges of adopting a pedagogical reform when they could share their successes, failures and lesson plans with other colleagues implementing the reform. …

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