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Maricopa Summer Institute: A Professional Learning Community

Focus 2010: Theory Into Practice

Developmental Education - Beyond Remediation


As the number of underprepared students increases across the nation, not only have community colleges accepted the challenge to provide access for these students, but they have developed intentional strategies to enhance the success of this burgeoning population. Current literature may be divided over which strategies work best with underprepared students. However, the one strategy that research supports unequivocally is providing professional development and training for staff who work with developmental students. Historically at most community colleges, providing this type of training has been difficult, given the limited resources often available for professional development opportunities.

The Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC) have taken a tremendous first step to provide a rigorous professional development experience for developmental educators. In June 2010, MCC’s faculty and staff participated in the Maricopa Summer Institute, an intensive four-week program intended to immerse participants in research-based theory and practical application of what works for developmental students. Cross-curricular and cross-departmental teams participated in the Institute for approximately 80 hours during June.

The purpose of the Maricopa Summer Institute was to give those who work with underprepared students the theory and practical applications to improve course completion and increase the number of developmental students who enter and succeed in college-level courses. The Institute was divided into four one-week themes. Each week’s work began with a presentation of current theory, research, and best practices from renowned experts and fellows of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Association (CLADEA). Three Maricopa faculty who successfully completed the Kellogg Institute for the Training and Certification of Developmental Educators, the nation's longest running advanced training program for developmental educators, facilitated activities and rich discussions focusing on the implications of the presented material. Participants submitted literature overviews and reflections about each week’s topic: 1) history, pedagogy, and research implications of developmental education, 2) learning environments, alternative delivery strategies, and cultural diversity implications, 3) learning frameworks and brain research, and 4) learning assistance and the pedagogy of teaching with technology. Requirements for the four-week session also included designing research-based interventions to address identified needs, a plan that outlined how the intervention would be implemented within the year-long practicum, and an evaluation plan for collecting data and making data-driven refinements to the initial design.

The year-long practicum now in process in the colleges include the following themes: conducting training for staff and faculty on examining data, student success strategies, and creating environments conducive for learning; developing college-specific training modeled after the Maricopa Summer Institute; developing short, self-paced preparatory courses for developmental math students that target specific areas; using an early alert program; providing faculty with opportunities to work with mentors and coaches who would assist with implementing innovative classroom strategies; and collecting qualitative and quantitative persistence data to identify the developmental program’s progress and areas in need of refinement. One college proposed developing a boot camp for success that would help students reach their goals by addressing anxieties, subject or technology skills, and self-efficacy.

Overwhelmingly, 100 percent of the participants indicated they had a positive view of the institute. Participants who provided written comments regarding the value of the institute indicated the many strengths of the program. One participant commented that the strength was “the research basis—becoming familiar with the why behind what works; the exercise of developing our own definition of developmental education so we can own it, espouse it, and advocate for it.” Another participant indicated that the institute provided a new focus for her work: “It introduced me to the field of developmental education. I will make this the focus of my work in the coming years. I have found my new passion.” One participant’s reflection on the experience concluded that the Institute was viewed as transformative: “This morning, each college team made its final presentation regarding their plans to advance developmental education upon return to their colleges. They presented what was learned from the institute, and more importantly, how each has been transformed in some way. This truly was a transformative and inspirational experience.” Finally, participants commented on the value of sharing teaching and learning strategies, including active-learning techniques, assessment strategies, the effective integration of technology, and incorporating service learning in the developmental classroom.

As national attention continues to focus on access and completion, it is critical that community colleges address the professional development needs of individuals who work with developmental students. The National Association for Developmental Educators (NADE) “advocates that institutions encourage and support developmental education professionals to engage regularly in professional development activities that will inform their knowledge base and as a result contribute to effective practice.” The Maricopa Summer Institute provides this support for developmental educators and serves as a framework for the Maricopa Community Colleges to further its institutional efforts regarding developmental education.

For more information, please contact:

Robin Ozz, Developmental Education Coordinator, Phoenix College

Eric Leshinskie, District Director Academic Affairs Support Programs and Services, Maricopa Community Colleges

Posted by The League for Innovation in the Community College on 11/30/2010 at 10:57 AM | Categories: