Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Academic Coaching

It's common for courses taught at the developmental level to be accompanied by some sort of lab time that allows students to practice skills and get extra help in areas where they struggle. Labs are staffed with tutors who are experts in the fields of reading, writing, grammar and math.

However, anyone who teaches developmental education has probably heard that developmental students need more than just content teaching. They need to be taught "how to be students." Many students who test into developmental courses do so because they never developed the discipline, study habits, and motivation that the most successful students do.

Academic coaching is designed to teach students these "non-academic" skills. The need for these skills is not limited to developmental students alone. Many of these skills are addressed in a first-year seminar-style course designed to help students transition to college. However, one might argue that this method of delivery is at best not enough and at worst ineffective if taught in isolation from the rest of a student's courses.

Academic coaching is presents more of an "alongside" approach. Carol Carter, when interviewed for the Winter 2011 issue of the Journal of Developmental Education by Amy. L. Webberman, says, "Coaches, whose role it is to guide students academically, emotionally, and socially, can be a counselor or an advisor, but they can also be a math, English, or biology professor" (20). Carter advocates this approach for all teachers of developmental education. These students in particular need extra guidance and support, and they are the least likely to persevere."Academic coaching is an ongoing partnership to help student produce fulfilling results in their lives. Through the process of coaching, students deepen their learning, take responsibility for their actions, improve their effectiveness, and consciously create their outcomes in life" (Webberman 19).

Academic coaching programs have been linked to improved student retention and graduation rates, too. With funding for public colleges rapidly shrinking and depending more and more on graduation rates, it's likely that more developmental ed programs will start looking into coaching programs and training for their professors.

Webberman, Amy L. "Academic Coaching to Promote Student Success: An Interview with Carol Carter." Journal of Developmental Education. 13.2 (Winter 2011): 18-20. Print.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Learning Communities

Learning communities have become popular at many community colleges, especially in the below-college levels--both developmental ed and ESL. They involve grouping 2 or more courses together, so that the same group of students takes all of the linked courses together.

However, learning communities offer more than simply paired courses (another common strategy employed in developmental education). The courses that are grouped combine college-level courses with developmental courses. The faculty teaching the courses work together, sharing materials and lessons, and sometimes even syllabi and assignments. Thus, the developmental course(s) teach with a focus on the college-level course grouped with it.

For example, a school might group a Psychology 101 course with a developmental reading and writing course. The reading and writing assignments would have a psychology focus, which gives the students a sense of purpose in their developmental courses and extra help mastering the new lexicon involved in the field of psychology. In addition, because the same group of students meet for more than one class together, they are more likely to turn to each other as a support system for the classes. They contact each other for missed classes and may even form study groups.

They also allow students in developmental classes to start taking college-level courses earlier and have been shown to increase retention of below-college-level students. As more and more colleges' government funding becomes tied to retention and completion, learning communities may be turned to more as avenues to improving student success rates.
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