Developmental Education Literature: A Proposed Architecture

By Preuss, Michael | Journal of Developmental Education, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Developmental Education Literature: A Proposed Architecture


Preuss, Michael, Journal of Developmental Education


Developmental education is a young discipline even though it has roots in services provided to underprepared students at institutions of higher education for over 150 years (Arendale, 2002; Neuburger, 1999). The phrase developmental education, the organizations for practitioners, and the publications in the field are between 30 and 40 years old (Armington, 2003; Boylan & Bonham, 2007; Clowes, 1980). Further, the nature and scope of developmental education is an item of continuing debate (Bruch, 2001; Casazza, 1999; Davis, 1999; Higbee, 1996). As a result, no hierarchical system showing the relationships between various constructs has been developed for the field. In addition, meta-analytical studies and extensive critical reviews of the literature of developmental education are few in number. Therefore, author statements describing the scope and nature of the literature in the field are often brief and subjective or based upon a topicspecific sampling of the literature (Trenholm, 2006; Wheland, Konet, & Butler, 2003).

I was unable to quantify the emphasis placed on developmental mathematics in the literature of developmental education when preparing the literature review for my dissertation. In addition, it was impossible to portray the balance between the emphasis on mathematics and that given other critical concerns in the field of developmental education. To facilitate appropriate descriptions of the content of the literature for developmental education, the emphases in the literature, and the relationships between topics, I developed a proposed architecture of the literature of developmental education.

The architecture is referred to as "proposed" for a number of reasons. First, it was the work of one person and may, as a result, reflect bias. Second, the method is based upon a sampling of the literature rather than categorization of the literature in its entirety. Third, the literature of developmental education continues to develop and expand. Therefore, the structures and relationships portrayed in the architecture are undergoing change.

The term "architecture" was employed as the project sought to portray both the logical relationships that exist between various topics in the literature and the attention which has been given to any particular topic in the literature. Architecture seemed to best portray this consideration of the structure of, the relationships between the components of, and the relative size of the components of the developmental education literature. Like plans for a building, the proposed architecture sketches the primary components of the developmental education literature and the relationships between these components. This is its primary value: providing a schematic of the literature.

A joist-by-joist, room-by-room, and wing-by-wing perspective of the literature is advantageous for instructors, administrators, researchers, editorial boards, and the public. Like a blueprint, it can be employed at multiple levels to function as guide, tool, and set of evaluative criteria. For example, the architecture displays constructs such as a structured and hierarchical overview of the literature sampled, key topics of interest in the field, and areas of focus in major publications, and it does so in an easily discerned manner. Since it represents an overview of material published in the field, the conceptual grid revealed is applicable to interactions regarding the current state of affairs in developmental education and to program and institutional organization, planning, and evaluation. This second area of application addresses needs of practitioners, administrators, and public officials in respect to departmental, institutional, and state-system level programming and to editorial boards in respect to review and planning. It also shows the developed and underdeveloped topic areas, ideas of particular interest to researchers. As a description of the literature, an architecture can answer many factual questions and serve as a platform for and point of reference in considerations of purpose, direction, vision, and values. …

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