The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently launched a national project focused on building capacity for community colleges to design and implement structured academic and career pathways for all of their students. Irvine Valley College (IVC) in California was one of the 30 institutions selected to participate in the Pathways Project over the next three years. The project progresses the work of institutions through a series of six institutes in 2016 and 2017, designed to give institutions the tools they need to implement a pathway program at their institution. While only partway through the project, IVC shared the some insights and successes from the early stages of their participation.
4 steps to success
Pathways emphasizes a shift away from the traditional self-directed cafeteria-style education that highlights exploration and independence to a model that provides guided pathways that emphasize program entry, progress monitoring, completion, high academic challenge and high student support.
The Pathways Project addresses four dimensions: Intake and support services, remedial education, instruction, and academic programs. IVC has projects in each of the four dimensions that are highlighted in the guided pathways college: 1) create clear curricular pathways to employment and further education; 2) help students get on a path; 3) keep students on a path; and, 4) ensure that students are learning along their path. Working within the project framework has brought together stakeholder groups to reexamine how the college orients, places, directs, teaches, tracks, and supports students. The project has provided a holistic approach to addressing all major systems simultaneously by breaking down the silos between multiple student success initiatives and integrating them into a coherent plan that served to guide students and propel them through their degree programs.
The role of meta-majors
One specific feature of the IVC pathway is the development of meta-majors. A meta-major is a collection of academic programs that have common or related content, and the intent is for IVC and other participating institutions to be able to advise associate degree seeking students based on the selection of a meta-major academic pathway. Meta-majors address the general concern that by adopting pathways, the college is abandoning the concept of “free choice” that is the cornerstone of American higher education. Meta-majors allow the college to preserve a degree of choice for students while both supporting and propelling students toward a degree.
The project will continue with four more institutes through 2017. More information and project updates can be found on the AACC Pathways website.
Download handouts from the Monday 11:15 a.m. session here.