LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations,
and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals
Developmental Education Program
(DEP): Making the Core a Reality for Disadvantaged Students
DEP and Brooklyn
College at The City University of New York (CUNY) were scheduled
as the October 2001 LeagueTLC Innovation Express Highlight. Martha
Bell and I began work on this project during the first week of September
and all was on time and on track. Neither of us could begin to imagine
the great tragedy and devastation that would shake New York and
our country on September 11, 2001. Our work here was halted, as
our nation was jolted, and although Martha's family was spared,
her colleagues, students, staff, neighbors, and friends lost loved
ones and suffered great emotional tolls in the aftermath. It was
early October when we spoke again, this time we talked about what
was happening in New York, in our country, and in our world. Martha
shared stories of people and families and made meaning out of great
chaos. From the depths of despair and sorrow, Martha brought light,
and it is this light that is reflected in DEP and Brooklyn College.
The thousands of students from all races and religions of the world
who come through the open-door of community colleges and through
Developmental Education Programs striving for a better life stand
to remind us, as educators and Americans, that we are a community
and we all belong here.
--Stella Perez, Director, League Online
In New York State and around the nation, remediation or developmental
education at the college and university level is a target of concern
as boards of trustees, state legislators, and college presidents,
faced with declining budgets for higher education, are questioning
the extent to which these programs should reside on college campuses.
Brooklyn College's Department of Educational Services (DES) and
its Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge (SEEK) Program
have assumed a statewide leadership role in developmental education.
With support from the U.S. Department of Education/FIPSE, the Developmental
Education Program combined some of the best practices in the field
with new features in a curriculum that provides a seamless transition
from developmental education to the college's prescribed core curriculum.
The Three Phases of DEP
In 1995, Brooklyn College developed a curriculum and instructional
model (Developmental Education Program-DEP I) that combines basic
skills instruction with preparation for the level of content and
critical skills appropriate to core or general education requirements.
DEP I incorporates traditional and multicultural texts and a faculty
developmental curriculum model and planning process. Strategies
include critical inquiry techniques that enable students to become
effective readers and learners, introduction to core curriculum
materials as well as multicultural readings. The model curriculum
plan includes block programming, summer programs, theme-centered
curricular units, and collaborative learning in classroom settings.
After participants achieved notable success on CUNY's basic skills
tests, increased their performance in core courses, and demonstrated
higher retention rates, DEP II was proposed. DEP II (1998) was a
pilot demonstration project for CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal
Justice and Queens College. DEP II had the goal of determining whether
the curriculum process, teaching strategies, and planning process
were transportable to other campuses. DEP II started with Brooklyn
College faculty identifying the essential elements of the original
project that would be disseminated to the two replicating campuses.
The essential task, to provide a seamless transition from the developmental
courses to the college's core curriculum requirements using transportable
elements including teaching and learning strategies of DEP I, was
a target for evaluation. A vital part of the replication process
included engaging the disseminating institutions in the faculty
development process designed to create their own version of DEP
I. This was achieved through faculty retreats, bi-weekly large group,
and small group meetings centered around curricular planning, program
administration concerns, or other identified issues.
Each participating college established a coordinating committee
whose members were briefed on program goals and objectives and trained
as program leaders. Retreats were conducted at Brooklyn College
to familiarize faculty and staff with the essential elements of
the curriculum model, with emphasis on the critical inquiry approach.
Visits by Brooklyn College faculty leaders to both campuses throughout
the year facilitated the process. Each college adapted the model
of developing summer programs with newly instituted critical inquiry
courses. John Jay College of Criminal Justice developed theme-centered
work, the Culture of Criminal Justice, that not only helps students
succeed in reading, writing, and math classes, but also bridges
over into sociology, psychology and law courses required for criminal
justice majors. Queens College developed a theme, Cultural Identity
in a Changing World, which combines writing and critical inquiry
as well as a core course in world civilization to prepare students
for further work in the liberal arts and sciences. Creative adaptation
at these two highly distinctive CUNY colleges proved that the successes
achieved in the Brooklyn College project were replicable in other
academic environments. Both programs focused on using the transportable
elements of the Brooklyn College project, especially critical inquiry,
on their own campuses.
DEP III (2000) seeks to utilize the results of the two preceding
projects in a broader, more comprehensive effort to share Brooklyn
College's experience with colleges and universities across the nation.
It is clear that other postsecondary institutions are in need of
programs that address the problems and challenges underprepared
students face. DEP III is designed to help colleges and facultiess
in diverse academic settings by providing a model curriculum process
that allows them to adapt Brooklyn College's transportable elements
to the circumstances and contexts of their own campus. A key objective
of DEP III is the dissemination of the critical inquiry methodology
and components of the project that have proven effective at CUNY,
across the state, and around the nation.
The Brooklyn College faculty involved in DEP I realized that no
curriculum can be completely replicated on another campus. Recognizing
this, DEP faculty knew they needed to identify the transportable
elements-the essential components that are the program's foundation
and that can be adapted to the needs of other institutions.
Among the transportable elements are the components of the curriculum
model, including the critical inquiry method, a reading process
based on a multilevel questioning strategy where students learn
to control their own learning. Other essential features are theme-centered
curriculum units; student-centered instruction; collaborative learning
techniques; a Benchmarks For Success program which helps students
measure their academic, social and personal growth; and learning
communities in pre-freshman summer, fall, spring, and post-freshman
programs. The stages and processes by which the faculty engage in
developing and evaluating their on-going curriculum are also transportable
DEP III is building a national network of colleges and universities
working together with the curriculum models developed under Brooklyn
College's DES/SEEK DEP I and DEP II. The evidence and the enthusiasm
of participating institutions indicate that the model is well-suited
to serve as the foundation for a national network of colleges and
universities in preparing students for rigorous core and general
education requirements. Thirteen colleges are participating, with
Brooklyn College as the center of the model. The participating colleges
fit into four categories: (a) public senior colleges including CUNY
(John Jay, Medgar Evers, Queens, and York) and SUNY (Buffalo, Geneseo,
and Old Westbury) campuses; (b) New York community colleges including
Monroe, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and Kingsborough
Community College; (c) a private institution, Hamilton College;
and (d) out-of-state colleges including Indiana University Purdue
University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Kean University (New Jersey).
In addition, three regional hubs of evaluation have emerged: Western
New York State, Midwest, and New York City.
The first major change in the project occurred at Brooklyn College-the
initiating institution-rather than among the disseminating schools.
In response to CUNY's new mandate to phase out remediation in the
senior colleges, Brooklyn College's SEEK faculty continued to focus
on the ongoing revision of its curriculum so that it now offers
a SEEK Pre-Core Program. This consists of compensatory courses as
college-level courses that prepare students for success in Brooklyn
College's core curriculum. These courses evolved from the original
developmental offerings in DEP I and II. The Developmental Education
Program at Brooklyn has been replaced by the SEEK Pre-Core Program,
and the Department soon will be renamed the SEEK Department.
DEP III Evaluation Plan
As a disseminating project, DEP III at Brooklyn College has developed
a set of uniform measurements in basic skills assessment that determine
the progress of the project at other colleges. All participating
schools are required to utilize these measures. Contacts with the
dissemination campuses occur primarily through project coordinators
on each campus. Throughout the year, each campus reports on its
progress, and these reports are evaluated by the Brooklyn College
team to assess needs, make recommendations, and monitor program
progress. The fall semester focuses on two major objectives: (1)
setting goals and adapting the transportable elements of the curriculum
process to each campus, and (2) teaching the "critical inquiry"
During the spring semester, the focus is on the selection and training
of faculty, the creation of unit themes and teaching materials,
and the application of critical inquiry to the campus curricula.
Formative evaluation has been an integral part of Brooklyn College
and DEP's success. Data, recommendations, and new developments have
created a path leading to collaborative commitments and greater
student outcomes. After six years of analysis, nine lessons for
adopting institutions to consider have been identified:
1. All colleges do not move at the same pace. Successful implementation
varied with the amount of control and stability they were able to
find on their home campuses. Campuses in flux or turmoil experienced
the most difficulty initiating the project.
2. Projects work best in environments where project directors have
established relationships with key faculty across the campus. Much
of the dissemination project involves project coordinator and faculty
understanding general education requirements and relating to the
liberal arts faculty in a broad range of disciplines. Directors
who have good relations in key general education departments have
had an easier time implementing new curricula.
3. Community colleges have had the most difficulty initiating projects.
This may stem largely from the fact that community college opportunity
programs or student affairs programs are more isolated from the
academic mainstream and have smaller staffs with which to work.
4. Having a core curriculum like Brooklyn College's is not a necessity
for a DEP III dissemination college; however, a clear set of specific
target courses is necessary. Large course distribution menus must
be limited to a reasonable number of appropriate courses since,
to plan pre-general education or pre-core critical inquiry experiences
for students, faculty need to know the courses students will take
in subsequent semesters.
5. Faculty training and participation in the development of curriculum
are essential. Faculty must experience the critical inquiry methodology
and then work with it over a period of time as they engage in the
curriculum development process.
6. The faculty development aspect of the model is exceptionally
important and must be ongoing.
7. Other campuses cannot and should not attempt simply to import
the Brooklyn College curriculum. Instead, each college must develop
its own curriculum and shape it to the particular requirements of
the institution and the needs of the students.
8. The critical inquiry methodology that is at the head of this
project is often confused with critical thinking. Critical inquiry
is not the same as verbal logic. It is instead a series of strategies
that enable students to ask questions and control their own text-based
9. The methodology of using hubs or regional centers works. It facilitates
training in which several schools work together. Where faculty were
not already familiar with one another, more time was needed to build
a community of scholars that would initiate and continue the project.
Schools and colleges in each region need to be compatible.
Summary & Brooklyn College Update
The DEP III Program, now called the SEEK Pre-Core Program, on campus
has experienced tremendous success. Having had its largest class
in Fall 2000, the program initiated many revisions, including an
early pre-freshman program in Spring, 2000, enhanced summer program,
new compensatory courses in Fall 2000 and Spring 2001, revised freshman
Benchmarks for Success Portfolios, enhanced supplemental instruction
in core courses, and an enlarged Post-Freshman Summer Program and
Sophomore Benchmarks for Success Portfolios. The enhanced summer
program was featured in the New York Times ("Remedial Program Refuses
To Die," Metro section, New York Times, September 19, 2000, pp.
The DEP program at Brooklyn College is indeed making the core a
reality for disadvantaged students and impacting developmental education.
The evidence is clearly communicated through student success and
the significant results demonstrated in Table 1.
Table 1: First
and Second FY DEP Results
|% Passed Writing Test in 1 Year
|% Passed Reading Test in 1 Year
|% Passed Math Test in 1 Year
|% Retained after 1 Year
|% Passed Core Courses in 1st
Year after DEP
For additional information,
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Department of Educational Services/SEEK