Innovation in Developmental Education: The Landscape and the Locus of Change

Authors: 
Year of publication: 
November 2011
Publication: 
Policy Analysis for California Education

In the third of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges are full of innovation in developmental education, and some of these have the promise of changing the “remedial pedagogy” that can be so ineffective. In this working paper the authors review six kinds of innovations: (1) the efforts of individual practitioners, which can be found in many colleges but which reach very few students; (2) the developments in limited numbers of departments that have come together, under particular conditions, to create their own alternative pedagogies; (3) learning communities and linked courses, unfortunately less common than the authors had hoped; (5) reforms following K-12 initiatives, specifically Reading Apprenticeship and the writing process methods of the National Writing Project; (6) the formation of Faculty Interest Groups to stimulate faculty discussions that might in turn lead to reforms.

There is, then, no dearth of good ideas about how to improve developmental education, though the scale and thoroughness of these innovations vary enormously. The conditions that nurture innovations are also critical to their success, and we uncovered one pattern — innovation from the middle, with the joint efforts of senior-level faculty and middle-level administrators — that seems necessary for widespread reform.

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