Orienting and Engaging Students in Learning-Centered Education

Sunday, June 24, 2001


Facilitator: Jerry Sue Thornton

Recorder: Pamela Haney

Resource: K. Patricia Cross


Overview of Session


During the seminar session Orienting and Engaging Students in Learning-Centered Education, participants identified and defined three areas of critical problems and issues for students: (1) student goals and success, (2) orientation, and (3) systems of a learning-centered college/student services. Following the discussion, participants offered comments and generated solutions to these critical problems and issues. 


Student Goals and Success


·         How do you identify the different characteristics and meet the needs of full-time and part-time students in a learning-centered way?

·         What are our expectations regarding learning for students and faculty?

·         There is a need to challenge the learning of students and faculty.

·         There should be a Partnership Model between students and the college; students deliver 50% of the success equation and the college delivers 50%.

·         Know the difference between covering a course and deepening a course, and how this relates to student success.




·         To assess student goals identify populations of students at our colleges.

·         It is important to study the following student populations: long-term, returning, transition, enrichment, full-time and part-time.

·         Develop outreach programs with high schools and junior high schools.

·         Examine if the college meets the needs of students.  These needs may be educational, social, or financial.

·         Build a student portfolio.

·         Implement the student portfolio as an ongoing process.  The student portfolio should be in place at or before entry into the college.  It is feasible for the student portfolio to begin in high school.

·         The student portfolio can be an on-line and/or written process.

·         A portfolio lends itself to lifelong learning, and “marketability” when looking for work.

·         Provide continuous updating of the student portfolio. 

·         Examine the needs of full-time and part-time students.

·         Implement a peer mentoring process that encourages students to mentor other students.

·         Assess student goals.

·         Assess the college’s ability to deliver a student centered and driven environment.




·         Colleges should engage in a "Holistic Approach" of orienting students.  Review the policies, practices, and procedures of orienting students.

·         How do we encourage students to learn during orientation?

·         Orientation must take place in the classroom and outside of the classroom.

·         There should be a college connection with orienting students.  The connection involves student engagement, student responsibility, knowing the student starting point when arriving at college, steering the student away from a passive mentality, and looking at a whole individualized learning plan of the student.

·         There should be an awareness of the different populations of students we serve.

·         Colleges should increase the awareness of the services they provide for students.

·         All students need orientation and a sense of belonging.

·         There is a need for continued orientation, especially in the first year experience. 

·         Engagement for students should begin during recruitment and continue.

·         Stop viewing students as a problem.  Review the language used at our colleges.

·         There should be an accessibility of staff to provide services for students.

·         When thinking of student engagement, get out-of-the-box in terms of an industrial model.




·         Orientation should be “Holistic” and “Continuous.”

·         In the orientation process address the whole student through academic and social integration.

·         Identify critical times in the life of the student and ways to assist the student.

·         Identify student needs at intervals.  The following are suggestions for handling the identification of student needs:  (1) student services can provide tracking systems, (2) system of management through the classroom, (2) paired-cohort group of orientation, (3) the student portfolio, (4) matching student expectations with college expectations, (5) focusing on the learner providing information to students, and (6) learning reports.

·         Use a student survey or tracking system to measure non-cognitive areas of students.  The student is engaged in a contextualized, authentic, learning experience that is impacted by attitudes, perceptions, and interests.

·         Use the portfolio to assess the quality of the learning experience of the student. 



Systems of a Learning-Centered College/Student Services


·         Colleges should review issues of facilities, staffing, and policies, procedures, and practices.

·         Consider developing an "Early Alert System" for students.

·         Embrace the challenge to review the reallocation of funds at your college.  Look at different ways of using college resources.

·         Colleges should encourage coordination; involving more areas and people in programs to increase efficiency and productivity.

·         The justification for "how we will benefit students" should be examined.

·         Student outcomes should be reviewed.

·         What is it that we can achieve as a college and how can we remain practical to make it happen?




·         Examine what key institutional policies and practices have been linked to student success. 

·         Create partnerships with various constituents within the college.

·         Develop linked courses.  Provide an opportunity for others to engage in classes.

·         Use instruments as diagnostic tools that enable students to develop new learning strategies and cultural influences of learning.

·         Implement the concept of the “Life Map.”

·         Follow-up with technology. 

·         Develop programs or use programs that are in place to determine if students are ready for distance learning.

·         Examine how we place students, advise students, and when to advise students.

·         Determine whom you should partner with as a college.

·         Implement an Early Alert System and incorporate policies for repeaters and retention policies.

·         Encourage policy development at colleges.

·         Send out the midterm progress report earlier in the semester.

·         Incorporate Student Success Day.  This day allows students an opportunity to “catch-up” on assignments and meet with faculty.  There is no instruction on this day.  Encourage faculty to remain available for students on this day.

·         Faculty must play a role in recognizing early warning systems and intervene when appropriate.

·         View support staff as part of faculty in their roles of helping students.

·         Examine the issue of the underprepard student. 

·         Define enrollment at colleges.  Does open enrollment mean there is an open door policy for seriously underprepared students?




As we attempt to solve the problems and issues that students face it is important to examine how we can meet student needs through a learning centered approach.  Engage students in active and enriched learning and maintain a relationship with students.  Provide the orientation of students as a continuous process and encourage all involved to view “learning as a journey” in enhancing student success.


Creating Learning-Centered Programs for Underprepared Students

Monday, June 25, 2001


Facilitator:  Jerry Sue Thornton

Recorder:  Kathy Goettsch


Key Questions


1.      What structures, policies and processes have proven to be most critical in promoting the success of underprepared students?

2.      What are the keys to creating information systems adequate to the need to track student progress and success?  What performance indicators will help know how effective its approaches actually are?

3.      What diagnostic tools are being used for effective assessment of student skills upon entry and appropriate placement in courses?

4.      In what ways are colleges effectively working with middle and high schools to improve student preparation?


Assignment: Discuss relevant issues, best practices, strategies for success, guidelines and framework to share.


Coordinated Programs for Underprepared Students


·         In most community colleges, 65-75% of students will possess some dimension of underpreparedness.

·         Dimensions/facets of underpreparedness include:

·         The issue of underpreparedness is everyone’s business

·         How do you assess student needs?  Assessment should occur on many different levels using a variety of tools.  There should be a menu of assessment which uses multiple measures.

·         As an institution that is learning-centered, there should be resources devoted to assessment issues.  A learning-centered college also needs to provide diagnostic assessment, not just placement assessment.

·         Colleges should consider ways to mobilize the staff around partnerships.  The college should create a culture that actively supports programs for underprepared students.

·         There should be clear exit criteria from courses and programs serving underprepared students. 

·         Consideration should be given to open-entry/open-exit services and to learning-community approaches. These two approaches are different from each other but both have value.

·         Programmatic transitions should be clearly outlined for students.  Course sequencing becomes critical in the student journey.

·         Since there are so many dimensions to underpreparedness, each learning college needs to decide what dimensions it will serve.  Once that is decided, programs and services, staffing issues, and exit criteria and learning outcomes can be clearly articulated.

·         A learning college needs to define for itself the concepts of developmental, remediation, and enrichment.  These are not synonymous terms.


Best Practices for Instructional/Learning Strategies


Learning communities are vital to the engagement of students in learning.  It is important for students to connect with each other in a process where they feel more in control over what is happening to them.


Some ideas to consider:

·         developmental ed students in cohorts. 

·         reading portfolio, “who am I as a reader?” 

·         community service and service learning should be paired with developmental ed

·         personal education plan for every student

·         successful use of Intro to American Pluralism and developmental reading course

·         “How To Learn” course (Learning as Journey)

·         paired courses should be marketed better; higher success rate and retention rate from pairing

·         lab courses for developmental ed students with scheduled entry into the lab but open exit


Delivery of Learning


·         Consider creative out-of-box scheduling to include variable credit, break semester barriers, and variable entry.

·         Consider issues of type/process in assessing learning to include testing and re-testing policies.