Saturday, October 30, 2010

Best Practices in Developmental Education - Considering Redesign

Yesterday I spoke at an Illinois meeting of the DEAC (Developmental Education Advisory Committee).  It is a committee of the ICCB.  Terrific group of people working throughout the state to improve developmental education.  I learned so much and hopefully was able to share something that helped others as well.

My contribution was to share an overall guide to approaching developmental math redesign using best practices.  This document overviews suggestions for any school as they enter redesign.  It is also has links to case studies and specific information.

For a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, click here.  I suggest using the Download feature in Google Docs once it's loaded to be able to see all the graphics.

Here are some suggestions for those considering redesign:

1.  Do your homework

There are literally hundreds of schools changing their programs.  One size does not fit all in terms of ideas, budget, or resources.  The Best Practices document is a starting point for redesign case studies but there are many, many more.

2.  Look at the whole picture

One mistake I've seen in my research that many schools fall prey to is looking for the magic bullet or putting all their eggs in one basket.  How's that for mixed metaphors?  There is no one right way to fix developmental math nor one single tool that makes it all better.  Developmental math is a system and to make it work, all its components have to function well.  Look at each piece of your program and investigate ways to improve them.  Easily said and hard to do but it does work.

3.  Success does not depend on a math lab

Math labs are terrific.  That's where I started my work at RVC, the creation of our math lab.  Sure, it's helped.  But again, it's one piece of a bigger puzzle.  Many schools think that if they don't have everyone in a lab watching videos with instructors helping, their programs will never improve.  That's not true.  That model does work in some schools that have the funding and right population for it.  But it's just one way to approach the problem.  Like anything, it has its problems too.  We tried moving to a more emporium based model and had a multitude of problems.  It works as an offering for us but it did not fit all students or instructors by a long shot.  Your mileage may vary. 

4.  Success depends more on people working together than funding

I always say at talks, 'money's great but it's not the only factor in makinng changes.'  Getting people on board and working together has a far greater impact on the state of your program.  Money cannot buy that.  It helps, for sure, but it's only one piece of the puzzle.  Buy-in and cooperation also matter.

If you have a case study or story of success, please share it with me.  I'd like to start showcasing ideas on my blogs from other schools to help those embarking on the journey of redesign.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Developing your developmental math redesign

I'm currently in St. Louis after giving a talk at University of Missouri St. Louis on our school's developmental math redesign.  At the left, I've posted some documents that may help those interested in more information.  Check out these specifically:

  • Best Pratices in Developmental Math (PPT presentation)
  • RVC Developmental Math Manual (contains all our program details including MML course IDs)
  • 2010 RVC Program Brochure
  • Making Course Redesign a Reality
The program brochure lays out the development of content to show our progression.  It also has a table that shows how we address the 5 components I talked about (placement, advising, courses, instruction, and support) in terms of quality, consistency, affordability, and flexibility.

Making Course Redesign a Reality is another presentation I give to schools who have chosen the changes they want to make but need help with implementation.  It has some ideas to help you when you meet the natural resistance that change brings about.

The key thing I ask you to keep in mind is looking at the program from all angles.  Don't focus on one specific aspect with the hopes that you'll find the cure-all there.  We had semesters where the only change was placement cut scores.  Then we phased in standardized policies.  In each case, changes in pass rates were negligible.  It wasn't until we had all the pieces working in harmony that pass rates made a significant jump.

If you have questions, let me know.  There are so many ways to make your program work and those details don't have to match ours.  I feel like we stumbled on some large lessons in terms of structure but the details are where flexibility comes in.

Keep trudging.  Your efforts are worth it.