“We give students a real-life certification, in their hands that they can go and get a job after they leave the high school.” – Laura Deshazo, Utah State Office of Education
Skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies. In a world where competition for jobs, pay increases, and academic success continues to increase, certifications offer an advantage as a credible, third-party assessment of one’s skill and knowledge of a given subject.
The value of certification
According to educationdata.org, national student loan debt has skyrocketed from 3.3 billion in 2003 to over 1.75 trillion in 2021. Industry certifications offer an affordable alternative for students to demonstrate their knowledge and credentials to pursue career opportunities without accumulating large debt.
Certification provides other significant advantages to candidates, including:
validation of knowledge
increased marketability, earning power, and confidence
Certification also offers specific benefits to high school-aged students. According to the Florida CAPE Performance Report, certification provides tangible improvements in academic performance, including:
higher grade point average for certified high school students: 3.12 vs 2.78 (4.0 scale)
higher graduation rates for certified high school students: 97.5% vs 78.4%
increased post-secondary enrollment: 84% vs 82%
reduced dropout rates: 0.2% vs 1.0%
Picking the right certification
Now that we know how valuable certification can be, let’s discuss how we can start. There are thousands of skills that students can learn and hundreds of certifications that they can obtain. Where is the best place to start? What are some of the foundational skills that students must learn?
Showing your creativity with Adobe Certified Professional
Adobe® Certified Professional is a suite of seven certifications. Each certification measures the candidate’s skills and knowledge with the corresponding Adobe Creative Cloud application, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro.
“By teaching and certifying students in these creative tools, we are not only teaching technical skills but also the ways to think and problem solve creatively,” says Erica Blum, Associate Professor of Arts and Design at Lindenwood University.
“These tools are not only for professional designers or artists. In fact, most of my students are not pursuing design as their career. But by learning how to use these tools, they are learning how to visualize what they envision. They are learning how to communicate and problem solve creatively.”
Using effective training and certification preparation tools
Achieving Adobe Certified Professional certification can be challenging. Using the most effective training and certification preparation tools is essential. Pearson has launched new, online programs designed specifically to meet the needs of students hoping to earn their Certified Professional certification in a variety of Adobe applications.
Have you noticed students coming to class underprepared or unable to demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or mathematics at the college level? Over 60% of students who attend either a two-year or four-year university enroll in at least one remedial course to better prepare for their major courses.1
Unfortunately, many of the academically underprepared are economically disadvantaged or come from marginalized or minority groups. For example, in California, over 90% of economically disadvantaged students require remediation in English language learning.2
The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic may have further heightened the struggles of underprepared students. With the shift to online learning, teaching quality varied substantially and transitions to remote learning were inconsistent. This enhanced the inequality for students who may not have access to the internet or a computer or don’t have the parental support they need.3
Institutions across the country are looking for new ways to help learners succeed. How could your institution and instructors leverage education technology to improve access and utilization to support these underprepared students?
Filling the gaps
Learning gaps should be identified prior to enrollment or the start of a course to ensure students are as successful as possible. Technology can help identify these gaps.
For example, Pearson Gap Finder assesses student knowledge and skills on prerequisite topics prior to enrolling in A&P courses. Students take an online diagnostic assessment and, based on the results, complete online learning modules focused on identified deficiencies so they’re more prepared for the rigorous A&P curriculum.
Once learning gaps are identified, you can provide the remediation students need to be successful. Your institution likely has its own remediation courses that are prerequisites before entering into major courses. Research has found that many of these courses are unspecific, increase costs, and extend the time required to graduate, all of which can lead to increased drop outs.
Using online instruction can compress these courses, allowing students to only receive remediation on the topics they need while co-enrolling with their major course. Plus this specification of courses increases affordability and access1 — helping you reach more students and meet your institutional goals of equity and inclusion.
Leveraging technology for ongoing support
There are many benefits to online instruction that level the playing field for many different social and demographic groups.
It allows for both asynchronous and synchronous instructional models. Asynchronous instruction (pre-recorded video, digital materials, etc.) provides for slowed and/or repeated delivery of instruction, making it ideal for English language learners.
Students can study anywhere at any time, which is great for students who are working while earning their degree.
Online tutoring provides the flexibility students need while still providing quality instruction.
Smarthinking is an online tutoring service available for core subjects, including math, science, business, health sciences, reading, and writing. Assistance can be provided asynchronously and synchronously 24/7 by subject matter experts with graduate degrees. The writing portion of the program allows students to submit essays or similar writing pieces and receive personalized assistance.
Introducing The Pearson Race & Ethnicity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guidelines
In February of 2021, Pearson issued additional guidance to complement our Pearson Global Editorial Policy. These guidelines serve as a resource to help content developers—including authors, reviewers, and editors—create authentic representations of the diverse communities we serve, and challenge racial and other stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments. They will be used in the process of developing new educational content as well as the review of existing content across all Pearson products, including Career & Technical Education curriculum.
The Value of Diversity in Education
When students join the workforce, they will encounter a variety of individuals with a vast range of backgrounds and abilities. To be successful, they will need to have a mindset that accepts and adapts to people of different cultures, values, backgrounds, and experiences. Further, as the global economy accelerates, sound business decision-making requires a constant awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. As these students advance in their careers, a fair, harmonized workplace will increasingly become their responsibility.
Challenges Publishers Face When Addressing Bias in CTE Programs
As a publisher we are cognizant of several challenges to ensuring diverse and equitable representation in educational programs:
Underrepresentation - People of different identities should be represented in all program components and be portrayed as equal and active participants in education and workplace settings. We choose texts and imagery that enable as many students as possible to identify with the content and feel included in the learning process.
Negative Associations - We are reviewing existing content for unintentional or nuanced stereotypes. For example, does a construction content provide adequate inclusion of workers including women and people with physical disabilities? Another example would be equitable representation of different ethnic races in health sciences programs. When developing new content, an additional level of conscious inclusion should be added to the traditional development process.
Limited Positive Associations - We strive to present an authentic and diverse representation of people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes within instructional materials. CTE programs often include career profile features that provide an excellent opportunity to depict people of all cultures and abilities as role models or highlight their accomplishments. We commit to doing the additional research necessary to help break down stereotypes and show that career opportunities and leadership roles are not limited by race, gender, gender expression, ethnicity, or age, just to name a few, to help reinforce the understanding for today’s CTE students that people of different cultures are leaders and innovators.
Impact of Pearson Global Editorial Policy and Guidelines on our CTE Product Development Process
The CTE Editorial Team at Pearson uses the guide to focus on diversity principles including:
Ensuring all team members are aware of the potential for subtle or unconscious bias in developing student content and program outcomes.
Deliberately seeking reliable sources for diverse perspectives in all authoring and research done during the development process.
Representing people of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and abilities in all student materials as equal and active participants in the learning process.
Choosing imagery that reflects the diversity of the classroom.
Presenting people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes.
Providing teachers the tools they need to understand and adapt to any classroom, regardless of student makeup. For example, many of Pearson’s programs include Teacher’s Editions with lesson plans for Advanced, Less Advanced, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students.
Making a Difference in the CTE Community
Beyond the considerations taken in content development, there are a number of other practices CTE publishers, including Pearson, integrate into their daily business that can make a further difference:
Include diversity in all initiatives and interactions with student and teacher associations.
Leverage diverse practices in developing marketing programs and highlight diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation of CTE programs.
Pearson's role is to create learning products that encourage critical thinking and help people understand the world around them. We are committed to developing products and services that represent the authentic histories and experiences of learners. Pearson is committed to creating equity and opportunity for all through education (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, geographical location, religious beliefs, and disability). We are continuously working to ensure our CTE programs reflect this.
Now more than ever schools are turning to online learning, so why not utilize online learning platforms to help your program with accreditation?
NACEP accreditation recognizes programs that have consistently met or exceeded rigorous, peer-reviewed standards in six areas: Partnership, Curriculum, Faculty, Students, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. These program standards create a quality framework to ensure that students are taking authentic college courses for transcripted college credit while in high school. Becoming a NACEP accredited program requires the submission of a variety of evidence documenting practice, policy, and procedures that meet or exceed NACEP’s Standards. Online learning platforms, like those offered by Pearson, can be an important ally in working towards accreditation.
Alignment via online learning platforms
An accredited program ensures that college courses offered by high school teachers are as rigorous as courses offered on the college campus. Coordinating online platforms between the college and the high school keeps assignments aligned and curriculum tight. By having identical content, the programs are meeting equivalency standards and comparison criteria (exams, homework, lab exercises, essays, etc.). Grading policies and rubrics can be the same within digital platforms to ensure continuity (number of tries, points deducted per wrong answer, extra credit, rubrics provided within the platforms, etc.) which helps programs demonstrate alignment with NACEP’s Assessment and Curriculum Standards.
Embedded professional development
Providing the depth and breadth of professional development needed to keep dual enrollment faculty up-to-date can be a challenge. Pearson offers weekly, discipline-specific, live and on-demand webinars for MyLab® and Mastering® that cover registration, assignment creation, testing, best practices, and other topics that help meet training criteria. Plus, you have access to training documents like how-to videos and planning toolkits. These resources can assist with documenting faculty professional development to meet NACEP’s Faculty Standards.
Downloadable assessment data
Programs need fast access to accurate data reports that highlight key course performance metrics including student pass/fail rates, content mastery, assignment completion, and formative assessment scores. With online platforms, course data can easily be downloaded and exported to Microsoft® Excel files for detailed analysis, allowing programs to make data-driven decisions and laying the foundation for program evaluation.
Viable alternative to in-person labs and hands-on experiences
Online platforms offer alternative learning experiences for students, especially during COVID-19 when the flexibility of online learning is essential and budgets are being stretched. Pearson’s Mastering platform is one example of a versatile tool, providing virtual laboratory exercises and dissections that engage students as if they were in the physical lab space. Struggling to offer content because the high school laboratory lacks necessary equipment? Mastering can help bridge the gap so that all students have equivalent laboratory experiences.
In addition to science offerings in Mastering, MyLab provides less expensive, virtual experiences for other “hands-on” Career and Technical Education fields, including automotive technology, culinary science, carpentry, and more. Creating real options for hands-on exercises provides your program maximum flexibility in instruction to help students continue to thrive despite COVID disruption. MyLab and Mastering present dual enrollment programs with an opportunity to document the ways they ensure equivalent content, even in the midst of a rapid shift to online coursework.
Pearson: your accreditation ally
Our MyLab and Mastering online learning platforms offer all these important benefits to help you document your activities in preparation for NACEP accreditation, while also improving the student and teacher experience. In addition, instructors have maximum control over their course, offering the flexibility to easily create courses to fit program needs. Courses can be shared with colleagues and adjuncts, copied for next semester, linked to an LMS, and more.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19 weighing heavily on instructors and programs, a solid back-up plan is needed for online and remote learning that has academics integrated with realistic experiences. By partnering with Pearson for your dual enrollment program, you can get:
award-winning digital learning platforms that can be personalized for each student
online homework and tutorial services that engage students and improve results
preparation, intervention, and assessment diagnostics that gauge student readiness
technology and services to provide in-depth data and analytics for your program
college and career readiness tools that promote personal and social skills
In The Road to Dual Enrollment (Part I), I discussed a few of the challenges experienced by dual enrollment programs, including lengthy accreditation processes and access to professional development opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the obstacles instructors face after they become accredited, including standardization, access, and the affordability of materials. See how online learning resources can help tackle these problems.
Developing a collegiate-level course with minimal resources
After receiving my accreditation and transitioning from high school teacher to dual enrollment instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas, I was given a college textbook and a sample syllabus from my department mentor. Within around two weeks I was expected to develop the learning objectives, scope, depth, breadth, and rigor for an entire course, Biology I for Science Majors. The curriculum of this course needed to match the scope and rigor of a collegiate curriculum.
I spent days reading through an entire textbook that I hadn’t previously used in my Advanced Placement® courses and brainstorming appropriate labs for the equipment that I had. I didn’t have a single test, assignment, or lab manual to follow. While my mentor gave me some of his most successful labs, I needed to make sure they didn’t use materials my school didn’t have in stock or couldn’t afford. The scope of the task seemed almost insurmountable.
The impact of online resources
Finally, after making little progress, I reached out to the department chair and department secretary to see what online resources were available. I was provided with an educator account for the associated digital learning platform for my text and was overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of material available to me.
Digital access to platforms such as MyLab™ and Mastering™ are imperative to dual enrollment teachers who are often starting from scratch. The pre-built assignments, test banks, online laboratory simulations, and study modules would have taken years of collaboration and effort to develop. Delivering course materials with such a platform provides instantaneous access to collegiate-level resources.
They also let instructors create coordinator courses. In these instances, college professors can actually create and maintain a set of nested courses for dual enrollment classes at various high schools — pushing the same assignments, tests, and content from the college to the high schools.
Digital learning platforms address affordability
30% of respondents to our surveys at the national and regional NACEP conferences indicated that funding and affordability of materials is one of their greatest program pain points. An additional benefit to using online learning platforms is the affordability for the high school partners.
During my first years as an instructor for Lee College, I would drive 50 minutes each way after school to run student samples on equipment such as PCR machines or high-speed centrifuges because my high school couldn’t afford the $10,000 investment for this equipment. But if a high school has access to the laboratory simulations found in Mastering Biology, they can provide engaging, application-based experiences that can replace thousands of dollars of equipment.
Online learning platforms also provide additional affordability through eTexts. These platforms often contain eTexts so students can avoid the separate cost of purchasing a print textbook.
We’ll continue to explore additional challenges faced by dual enrollment programs in subsequent blogs. Read part I of this blog series and stay tuned for future posts centered around high school student readiness and preparation tools for college courses.
Ensuring that dual enrollment courses match the rigor and quality of traditional higher education courses requires thorough teacher training and accreditation, access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs. It can be a challenge to coordinate all of these vital elements for every dual enrollment class, especially considering the myriad of dual enrollment course models available. Courses can be taken on the college campus, on the high school campus, remotely online, and even in hybrid versions comprised of online and face-to-face instructor interaction.
Overcoming obstacles to accreditation
The extensive initial accreditation process and training is an issue that I have personally experienced as the first dual enrollment science instructor for Lee College in Baytown, Texas. Previously, I had been teaching various levels of secondary science curricula from remedial to advanced placement (AP) when I received accreditation from Lee College to teach biology and related subjects at Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas.
To receive this accreditation, I had to provide documentation of undergraduate and graduate school transcripts, proof of completion of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a CV outlining my research projects and publications.
The biology department developed an internal committee to review my paper credentials before beginning a three-step interview process. I had an initial sit down interview to discuss my experience before being asked to design and teach a sample lesson at the college campus. Finally, I had to undergo a skills assessment to test my laboratory acumen.
Facing professional development challenges
While necessary to ensure instructor quality, the accreditation process often creates a bottleneck effect for dual enrollment programs. Student interest far exceeds a school’s ability to vet instructors. A focus of many dual enrollment coordinators, policy makers, and school officials is simplifying the process of identifying and accrediting qualified instructors. This resonated with the attendees of the 2019 regional and national NACEP conferences who completed the survey at our Pearson booth. In fact, 41% of respondents indicated teacher professional development and accreditation was one of their largest program pain points.
The College Board Advanced Placement program offers week-long, intensive summer institutes on college campuses nationwide where teachers receive certification to teach AP courses. Can collegiate systems work in conjunction with governing bodies such as NACEP to hold similar dual enrollment institutes?
While the process of obtaining credentials can be cumbersome, it is equally difficult to maintain a schedule of professional development opportunities for dual enrollment instructors. Hargrave High School was more than a 50 minute drive from Lee College, prohibiting me from attending most on-site training. Travel to department meetings, team meetings, and faculty-wide technology and platform training could feasibly take an entire day, when in actuality high school teachers are only granted one or two 50 minute planning periods per school day.
The need for creative solutions
The most effective dual enrollment programs will solve these problems with outside-the-box solutions. Many collegiate partners are now offering evening, weekend, and summer professional development opportunities to accommodate the traditional high school teacher’s schedule. In addition, on-demand and webinar-based professional development can help bridge the distance gap between high school and college campuses.
The University of Texas OnRamps program employs a hybrid model wherein high school dual enrollment teachers attend an intensive summer institute followed by continual web-based support from a tenured faculty member. This allows the program to be administered throughout the entire state of Texas, helping to alleviate both the accreditation and professional development distance gap. Another unique solution is the development of dual enrollment satellite campuses such as the Lee College South Liberty Education Center. This center is located an hour away from the main campus of Lee College, allowing for a different subset of area high school students to convene to take dual enrollment classes from a qualified instructor, thus also helping to alleviate the burden of teacher accreditation and training.
These issues represent a small subset of the challenges faced by dual enrollment programs. In subsequent blogs, we’ll explore additional pain points we’ve discovered, share best practices, and present ways that Pearson is here to ensure equitable access to quality dual enrollment courses. Stay tuned for future posts addressing access to collegiate curricula, affordable student materials, and student readiness programs.
As a former full-time community college math professor in the state of Florida, I had many dual-enrolled high school students in my classes over the years. For community college instructors, having dual enrollment students in the classroom doesn’t change much about how we teach or conduct class. Sure, I reminded my college-aged students to be mindful that there were minors in the room, and I frequently tweaked due dates at the beginning of the semester since many dual-enrolled students had to wait for the district to provide their course materials. But I had the luxury of teaching my courses using the same textbook regardless of whether I had dual-enrolled students on my roster or not.
Another advantage I had was that my department was an early adopter of MathXL and MyLab™ Math, so I felt comfortable not only creating courses and assignments in those programs, but also helping my students take advantage of the great features they contained. I didn’t realize how different the experience of teaching dual enrollment can be for high school teachers until 2018, when I joined Pearson on a new team whose goal was to make dual enrollment work better for all teachers.
Accessing dual enrollment materials
Most dual enrollment partnerships require that courses taught in a high school must use the same course materials as the equivalent college course. This means that high school dual enrollment teachers must not only get their hands on the textbook, but also gain access to any corequisite online component (such as MyLab or Mastering™).
Fortunately, Pearson has made these two tasks easy, thanks to an updated website designed with dual enrollment teachers in mind. On the Preview page, you will find a link to our Dual Enrollment Instructor Access Request Form, where you can request access to our digital platforms (which contain the eText) and also request a print textbook (if needed). Additionally, the Purchase page walks users through the options to purchase student materials, since dual enrollment can have various purchasing models not commonly found in higher education.
How-tos and support
Like myself, many college professors have been using MyLab and Mastering for years, but fewer high school teachers have experience with these platforms. Still, if the college is using MyLab Math in their precalculus courses, the high school teachers are typically expected to use MyLab Math in their dual enrollment precalculus courses as well. Pearson provides high school dual enrollment teachers with the resources they need to become comfortable using our digital products. Visit our Get Started page to learn how to register yourself and your students for MyLab or Mastering.
Once you are registered and are ready to learn more, the Training and Support page provides the opportunity to subscribe to our customer success journey emails that are loaded with helpful tips, or register for a webinar to take a deeper dive into using your MyLab or Mastering product. This page also explains how to get access to the Instructor Resource Center so you can download presentations, instructor manuals, test files, and more.
Lastly, this page offers assistance in case you need technical support. We have worked with our sales and technical support teams to better prepare them to tackle dual enrollment-related issues. We encourage you to bookmark our Dual Enrollment Customer Handbook, which contains much of the same information as our website, but in a handy PDF format.
Pearson is committed to providing solutions to the unique needs of dual enrollment teachers. See how we can help your program by reading through our Results and Success Stories.
Several national studies (Swail; American Institutes for Research; Lake) purport approximately 60% of all college students attending four-year institutions persist until graduation within 6 years. Thus, there is a 40% attrition rate nationally.
American tax dollars contribute to the grants, scholarships and financial aid used by many students. According to LendEDU a college drop-out has incurred about $14,000 dollars in student aid debt. About half of these loans are in default. There are high stakes involved at the institutional level as well.
According to a study of retention at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016, the cost to that one university of losing almost 40% of their enrolled students during that 6 years was $86 million. Given the high financial impact to society, institutions, and students, the study of college retention and student persistence has become an important one.
Beyond financial loss
While retention has hefty financial implications, perhaps more important, college degrees prepare students to critically evaluate the needs of their society and to understand how to effect change for the better. Retention also affects the national reputations of colleges where legacies, among other advantages, are at risk in institutions with high attrition rates. Finally, and perhaps most critically, the impact on the individual student of attrition, withdrawal, or dropout goes beyond crushing college loan debt.
The impact on self- esteem and self-efficacy results in far more pervasive and damaging long-term consequences than mere financial limitations. The assault to self-worth may be the greatest danger of college attrition and the most important reason to show concern for increasing student retention. An examination of student retention can help us change the retention narrative, and help our students write brighter and more hopeful futures for themselves and our society.
What we can do
There are factors that lead to attrition beyond the control of institutions and instructors. Student abilities, skills, and preparation come with them to college. As do their personal attributes, values, and knowledge base. While we know students with the character trait of resilience are far more likely to persist against negative factors, colleges cannot control whether a person has this trait or not.
The outside influences, often leading to student dropout, such as families, jobs, or lack of support are factors beyond the scope of college control as well. While programs within colleges may ameliorate the effects of some of these influences, these influences come with the individual and vary widely between students.
The good news is there are a number of factors colleges and instructors can influence. Several of these factors are defined by Alan Seidman (2012). Seidman purports these may be the greatest contributors toward student success. These include; expectations, student support, involvement, and feedback.
Expectations clearly communicated to students from their institutions and teachers is critical for student comfort, increasing engagement. While it is common knowledge that syllabi are contracts of the class expectations between the student and the teacher, institutional expectations are equally important.
Students will most likely interact on an institutional level before having access to individual classrooms. Schools that have clear mission statements, clear and comprehensive student orientations, clear student handbooks, and information to access support services go a long way toward creating an open and transparent environment where students feel respected and valued. This atmosphere of clear expectations should flow into each classroom, reducing confusion and miscommunication, creating an atmosphere of comfort and clear outlines of how to succeed.
Student support should have a three-pronged approach providing services for academic, social and financial support.
Academic support may be provided through tutoring centers, peer, and faculty mentoring programs, computer proficiency workshops, writing centers, computer labs, and service-learning centers. Not only do academic support centers help students in their classes, but they foster social networks between peers, teachers and the student, creating learning communities.
Social support in college has been linked to positive student engagement, potentially increasing retention. Social centers designed to bond like others for common goals or common identities have shown value in creating climates of collaboration in colleges. Social groups might include clubs or centers for foreign students, service groups, ethnic identity, or spiritual unity, among any other traits that bond groups.
Financial support may take the form of required workshops on financial responsibility for any student on financial aid, or grants and student financial rewards, or student work programs. Some colleges have even offered short-term small cash loans to students struggling at the end or beginning of terms. Students who have a clear understanding of what they are getting for the amount invested are armed with information about the investment and may make better choices about wise expenditures of their energy, time, and resources.
Involvement studies (NASPA; Purdue University) indicate students who feel positive emotional connection to their educational environments, through peer or faculty connections, are more likely to persist. College student populations have evolved from primarily residential students to the majority of students commuting.
With busy, active lives beyond the borders of college campuses, involving students in campus life has become a challenge. Dissociated students are far less likely to find the support needed to weather the inevitable stresses of college. Programs such as peer and faculty mentoring also foster an atmosphere of connectedness.
Methods of student involvement in the classroom include group projects designed for students to connect through remote or social media communication. Class time can also be allocated for group work. In short; happy, connected people are more likely to want to remain connected to each other and the environment that fosters those connections.
Feedback is often overlooked as a critical factor in student retention; however, it is the one factor that is absolutely in the control of the institution and instructors. Transparency by all parties is the key ingredient for solid and satisfactory problem solving. Students need to know how they can succeed and what they need to do to get there.
Institutional feedback comes in the form of monitoring student’s academic standing. Students need accurate and timely assessments of their degree progress. They need clear communication of their GPA, college and national standing, as well as communications from financial aid concerning their current debt and estimates of debt upon graduation. Students also need early warning when they are steering off the path to successful completion.
Instructor feedback answers the common student questions of: “What is my grade? How do I measure up? Can I pass this course? Our assignment assessments are our feedback to these questions. The practice of assessing content mastery with only one or two major exams or papers gives little indication to students of where they are going off the rail before it was too late. This should not be the case in a learning-focused classroom.
Learning-centered classrooms should offer immediate feedback on formative low stakes assignments. That feedback should be clear and meaningful resulting in the students increased awareness of what they know or don’t know. This translates into better metacognition and students are less likely to overestimate their knowledge acquisition.
The learning-centered classroom
Learning-centered classrooms demand students learn first-hand, moving away from the teacher centered classroom, where learning is strained by passive listening with little interaction. After implementing new learning-centered feedback strategies in my classroom such as quick mini quizzes using clicker type answering providing immediate feedback in a low-stakes situation, I saw striking results in improved preparedness and retention.
Learning-centered classrooms are also collaborative. Building learning communities within the classroom is often the only peer association commuter students will have. Collaborative learning has been shown to produce greater levels of intellectual development. Teachers can foster this through group work in the classroom assignments.
These might be problem-solutions focused or project-based. Service-learning opportunities in the classroom allow students to work together and apply the academic principles they are learning to real world settings. Other classroom activities that have been suggested in the book, “Make it Stick,” as excellent methods for student learning include:
Spacing Retrieval Practice, based on the testing effect, where taking tests increases the ability to be a better test taker. Activities that lend themselves to this might be short quizzes, one-minute essays, self-analysis activities, or partnered homework assignments.
Interleaving is cycling back to previous learning and bringing it forward for application. Reviews, reflections, quizzes, short essays, or group presentations might lend themselves to this type of assignment.
Elaboration gives new learning meaning and commits it to longer-term memory through application. Essays, scenario creation, group projects and presentations are all able to offer opportunities to elaborate on new knowledge. One particularly successful activity has been to have groups teach a portion of the new concepts for the week.
Generation is the process of finding creative and innovative solutions to problems or assignments. Offering students opportunities to submit drafts with feedback generates deep understanding of the concepts building towards a more successful final product. Working in groups to resolve a difficult problem is also effective in generating deeper understanding through the lens of other perspectives.
Reflection reviews new learning, making applications to prior learning or novel situations in real world settings. Service-learning group projects with field notes foster reflection on how the classroom principles apply in practical settings. Essays and scenario activities also allow students to make meaning of new information.
Calibration teaches students how to judge what they know. It increases metacognitive skills and helps student more accurately assess the time and energy expenditures needed to succeed. Testing of any kind as well as self-evaluation aid in calibrating, as do peer evaluations.
Collaborative learning-centered classrooms where homework is due prior to class, where the student was provided immediate feedback on homework before coming to class, where the teacher has access to performance data from the homework, allows the instructor to focus on those concepts deemed most difficult for the entire class.
This classroom is now flipped to address this specific group of students with their unique learning needs. The flipped classroom lends itself to collaborative learning and interactive problem-solution activities that address the most difficult concepts using valuable class time effectively.
As a young teacher, my classroom was all about my teaching; how creative I could be thoroughly covering all the material. I now see my classroom is not about my teaching, it is about my students’ learning.
I am empowered to know that while retention is an enormous problem impacting our society, colleges, and students, there are things we can do at the institutional level and the classroom level to combat student attrition and student dropout rates, leading to more students meeting their goals and achieving successful and productive futures.
In education today, many states are testing high school (HS) students in their junior year to determine if they are college ready. This enables students who test college ready excellent opportunities to earn college credit while taking dual credit courses. Many of these students graduate from high school with college credit, Associate Degrees, and no student loan debt.
Since this is such a successful model, HS educators are now focusing on providing more opportunities for HS students not testing college ready by offering Transition or College and Career Readiness (CCR) courses. These opportunities are bridging the gap for college and career readiness.
Providing students college readiness resources while still in high school is a benefit to students. In the past, most colleges enrolled these students in Developmental Courses to enable them to become college ready. Students did not earn college credit for these courses but did pay tuition. Providing these resources in high school eliminates cost, saves time, and reinforces skills. In addition, college and career ready students encounter more opportunities for higher education and employment choices.
Implementing these courses varies from state to state. Many states now mandate high schools provide these transition classes before graduation. Student progress and the number of students graduating college and career ready are monitored by the state. Some school systems include these classes in the student’s schedule, offer courses as supplemental instruction or boot camps, or even an independent study for students.
Increasing the high school college and career readiness rate continues to be one of the strongest outcomes. In Kentucky, for example, after 5 years of implementing the high school transition classes, the college and career readiness graduation rate doubled. As a result, students, colleges, and employers benefited from graduating seniors being better prepared. (Source: Kentucky Department of Education)
Bridging the gap for college and career readiness by providing resources, educational, and employment opportunities during high school benefits students and communities. As an educator, I am proud to be part of so many initiatives that empower students to be successful in life.
Seven years ago I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to envision an ideal high school, and to turn that vision into a reality. My school district had recently acquired a state-funded grant to found an Early College High School, a new and burgeoining concept melding secondary and post-secondary education.
As an educator, program coordinator and instructional coach for Sheldon Early College High School in Houston, Texas, I, along with my colleagues, was able to create a unique environment where underserved and underrepresented student populations were given the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree and high school diploma at the same time. We were able to accomplish this with a non-traditional high school course model: dual enrollment.
In the 2017-2018 school year, more than 3 million students participated in this now fast growing sector of education. Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment and dual credit, is the practice of allowing students to be enrolled in two institutions at once: a high school or middle school and an institute of higher education (IHE).
In most models, the students tandemly earn credit towards their high school diploma and credit towards their associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Dual enrollment has grown by over 67% since 2002, with some states such as Texas experiencing growth rates of over 1000%! With substantial dual-enrollment offerings, the first graduating class of Sheldon Early College, or SECHS, earned over 4,000 college credit course hours with over 65% actually earning their associates’ degrees!
Dual enrollment, however, is not just found in early college high school models. This model has also spread to traditional high schools. Studies published by the Community College Resource Center indicate that successful completion of dual enrollment classes decreases the timeline in which students attain a college credential after high school graduation.
In fact, 46% of students who took a dual enrollment course in high school went on to complete a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree within 5 years of graduation compared to 39% of students who did not participate in dual enrollment attaining a credential in 6 years. Additional studies from What Works Clearinghouse indicate that dual enrollment has positive effects on student attendance, grades, high school graduation rates, college enrollment and college completion.
The positive effects are especially significant with minority and first-generation college students. I’ve witnessed this first-hand with my students at SECHS, where over 50% of our student population were first generation college students and over 85% were classified as low-socioeconomic status, yet 100% graduated with their high school diploma.
As high schools, community colleges, and 4-year universities discover the benefits of dual enrollment, the partnerships between these institutions have become more frequent and more unique to best serve the needs of all student populations. Dual enrollment courses can be taken physically at a community college or 4-year university campus, digitally through online courses, and many are being offered directly at the high school with high school faculty attaining college teaching credentials. State legislation is now in place in 47 states governing the relationship between the high school and IHE to ensure equitable access to dual enrollment for all students.
As enrollment and class offerings have increased, ensuring the quality and rigor of dual enrollment has become a core focus. As such, institutions have arisen to accredit these partnerships, the largest of which is NACEP, The National Association of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. NACEP accreditation is the preeminent distinction among secondary and higher ed partnerships and reflects meeting measurable criteria in 5 different categories: curriculum, faculty, students, assessment, and program evaluation.
Currently more than 100 programs are NACEP accredited. Pearson is proud to be a sponsor for both the National and Regional NACEP conferences and looks forward to presenting how our engaging, student-driven platforms can enhance student success.
I am thrilled that Pearson recognizes this fast-growing sector and is committed to providing solutions and services as unique as these programs themselves. When I reflect back on my experience designing Sheldon Early College High School, the suite of Pearson products and services could have helped us to improve student course grades, provide personalized tutoring, and create a college-growing culture. As Customer Success Specialists dedicated to those using Higher Ed Courseware in K-12, we have been hard at work to ensure a smooth Back-to-School Fall 2019. Our initiatives include expansion of Pearson’s Dual Enrollment website, a customized Dual Enrollment Instructor Handbook, and launch of Dual Enrollment Customer Success Journeys.
“College students already know how to read, don’t they?”
Yes, students know how to recognize words on a page. But no, many do not know how to read actively to create meaning and analyze and evaluate the author’s message.
Why reading needs to be taught
Just as writing needs to be taught, active reading strategies also need to be taught. It may be intuitive to us, as instructors, but it is not for our students. Integrated Reading & Writing (IRW) classes teach these skills fundamental to student success.
Many developing college writers have a rudimentary command of basic grammar. They can speak clearly and be understood. They may also possess a massive store of word meanings, but they cannot write coherent paragraphs or essays. Likewise, as readers, many college students can recognize words, understand word meanings, and pronounce and define words, but they do not know how to engage and interact with a text to extract meaning from it.
Both reading and writing are essential survival and success strategies for college and the workplace. Both involve critical thinking: interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of ideas.
What needs to be taught
College reading is built on five approaches and skill sets that can be taught:
Teach that reading is a process that parallels the writing process. Emphasize that it is an active process in which the reader interacts with the writer’s ideas.
Reading = recognition of techniques (for example, identifying and understanding topic sentences)
Writing = implementation of techniques (for example, drafting and revising topic sentences)
Reading = analysis of ideas (for example, analyzing a writer’s tone)
Writing = expression of ideas (for example, choosing a tone that suits the audience and purpose)
Explain that reading involves strategies to use before, during, and after reading. Students need to:
preview before reading
think, connect, and anticipate ideas as they read
review and analyze after reading
Teach students to extract meaning from a text. This involves interacting with the text and being able to explain the author’s intended meaning in their own words.
Teach students to think critically, analyzing and evaluating the author’s ideas. Show students how to examine the author’s techniques and assess a work’s accuracy, worth, and value.
Equip students with skills to learn and remember what they read. In their other college courses, students must not only discover meaning, but determine what to learn, and use strategies to retain the material. Skills such as paraphrasing, highlighting, annotating, summarizing, and outlining or mapping are valuable.
How to teach reading more effectively
Instructors can teach reading more successfully by following these guidelines:
Always prepare students for a reading assignment. Don’t just assign a reading and send students off to complete it. You might pre-teach the reading by:
offering some background on the topic
building interest through a brief classroom discussion
asking students to do a quick Google search of the topic
creating a list of questions about the topic
Alert students about trouble spots, and offer some specific purposes for reading. (For example, “Watch how this author uses shocking examples to stir your emotions.”)
Be intentional about teaching reading and writing together. Always remind students that reading is the “flip side” of writing. If you consistently remind students of this connection, they will eventually make the connection themselves and transfer this awareness to new situations.
Teach process not content. Don’t focus on the content of the reading (who did what, when and where). Instead teach how to discover what the author says and means. Strategies for discovering meaning have long-lasting value, while knowledge of a particular reading’s content is far less important. Think of the reading as a vehicle for teaching skills and strategies, not as an end in itself. Show students how to find the important details in a paragraph, for example, but don’t spend time on the details themselves.
Ask students to stretch. They should be asked to engage with challenging material, while you give them help and support to succeed. You might create a reading guide or graphic organizer; or use scaffolded instruction by providing a partially complete outline to guide them through the reading. Students will encounter difficult materials in other courses, so they need to develop strategies to cope. As they complete difficult readings, they will experience growth, a sense of accomplishment, and greater confidence in their abilities.
Teach by showing, not telling. “Walk” students through challenging readings. Demonstrate how to uncover meaning. For example, suggest questions to ask, or use think-aloud protocols.
By using these techniques to teach the approaches and skills outlined here, you can help students think more critically, and interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas more effectively. Those abilities will empower them — in college, at work, and in society.