January 27, 2016

ACC Considers Guided Pathways

When it comes to walking the path to success, Dr. Rob Johnstone wants educators to understand there are many different routes to take.

Johnstone is the founder and president of the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement. He delivered his presentation about methods called Guided Pathways, during a seminar for Alvin Community College faculty and staff on January 14.

Community colleges are a vital element in the country's economy because they provide students with a direct path to a career, he said. But colleges and universities have become bogged down in traditional procedures when it comes to how students proceed through college.

"Community colleges are important but they do need to work better," he said. "We are trying to help students attain their economic sustainability."

One of the primary ways of helping students is by providing different methods to navigate the educational system which can include offering different types of courses to meet degree requirements, less focus on placement tests, teaching material that is relatable to students and implementing a strong focus on student advising.

An important tool to help improve college retention and success is by properly utilizing data, he said. College faculty and staff should evaluate information such as graduation rates, retention rates, pass rates and much more to help aid decision making.

"People need to actively interpret data," he said. "We have to ask the right questions."

There are many occasions when students enter the college admissions process and they are overwhelmed. Colleges can improve those students' success with a focus on advising as well as closely monitoring their progress.

One particular area that should be adjusted is creating educational goals that students can easily grasp, Johnstone said. Student achievement can be adversely affected if they are taking courses without an established goal.

"You need a clear road map for students goals," he said. "Intake should be redesigned as an on-ramp to a program of study."

Some colleges have adjusted their services to monitor things like the effectiveness of prerequisite classes, creating freshmen learning communities and helped students achieve financial stability.

Those colleges have seen their graduation rates and retention rates increase significantly, Johnstone said.

"They changed the conditions of how students entered and moved through the colleges," he said. "You have to believe this is possible."

For more information about Guided Pathways, visit the National Center for Inquiry & Improvement website at

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