Guided pathways is a reform movement that aims to help community college students graduate, transfer to four-year institutions and attain jobs with value in the labor market by reframing the entire student journey.
For this to happen, the guided pathways framework includes four pillars of implementation for colleges:
- Pillar 1: Clarify the Paths
- Pillar 2: Help Students Get on a Path
- Pillar 3: Help Students Stay on Their Path
- Pillar 4: Ensure Students Are Learning
Faculty involvement in the work of guided pathways — particularly around Pillar 4 — is key. This pillar asks that faculty (full-time and part-time) be fully engaged in the pathways mission and, in turn, use their classrooms to engage students in the process.
However, not all faculty know if their college is engaged in guided pathways. According to data collected from the 2019 Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, which is based on responses from 7,534 faculty across 73 colleges, 68% of full-time faculty and 39% of part-time faculty report their college is in the process of implementing guided pathways. On the other hand, 32% of full-time faculty and 61% of part-time faculty report not knowing whether their college is implementing pathways. Furthermore, among faculty who are aware, 45% of full-time faculty and 58% of part-time faculty say they need more professional development about their role in the work.
When faculty know their college is implementing guided pathways, their perceptions of their students
and their own behaviors reflect higher levels of engagement. In response to ‘How often do your students work on a paper or project that requires integrating ideas from various sources?’ 60% of faculty who say their college is implementing guided pathways responded “often” or “very often,” while 49% of faculty who report not knowing if their college is implementing guided pathways responded the same way.
Since faculty engagement is essential for guided pathways reform, the Center for Community College Student Engagement led the Ensure Students Are Learning Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project’s purpose was to develop resources that institutions can use to engage faculty in the pathways work. As one element of the project, Center staff interviewed more than 250 community college faculty members to collect descriptions of innovative teaching practices related to Pillar 4. These interviews resulted in a searchable database of faculty stories.
Another essential condition of the guided pathways model is a commitment to student success and equity, and a specific component of Pillar 4 is an institution-wide commitment to equity-minded, asset-based teaching improvement. One faculty member who was interviewed described such an institutional commitment: “Inclusivity and diversity at our college is a foundational building block for how we teach and who we teach.”
- Another faculty member described taking advantage of an opportunity to explore inclusivity: “Doctors Without Borders came to the city, and there was an opportunity to take my classroom there. So, I embedded that into my curriculum as a, ‘Let’s have a field trip outside of the campus, where we could explore what cultural awareness and inclusivity meant.’”
- Another instructor described using “sociological imagination” — a process through which students learn that seemingly personal or private matters are often connected to larger social and historical conditions. This practice involves creative activities, such as songs, poetry and short stories, to help students explore critical social justice issues throughout history.
- Another instructor described an open-ended research project in which, in lieu of a traditional research project, students can alternatively read and analyze a historical novel or participate in and reflect upon a race talk forum hosted by the college.
The toolkit houses a searchable database of these faculty stories. It also contains equity tools — five briefs and four spotlight series documents — that explore equity-centered practices that college professionals can employ to ensure all students are learning.
Turning the tide on Pillar 4 will require engagement and commitment from faculty, but the effort should not rest solely on their shoulders. Enriching and assessing student learning should be an institution-wide effort. To bolster these efforts, the toolkit also contains campus conversation starters and professional development agendas.
Find the toolkit at www.cccse.org/ESAL.
The authors include Dr. Linda García, executive director, Dr. Coral Noonan-Terry, program manager, and Dr. Courtney Adkins, assistant director of publications for the Center for Community College student Engagement (CCCSE).
The Roueche Center Forum is co-edited by Drs. John E. Roueche and Margaretta B. Mathis of the John E. Roueche Center for Community College Leadership, Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education, Kansas State University.
This article originally appeared in the May 13, 2021 edition of Diverse. Read it here.