Issuing a Call for Teaching and Learning to be the Center of the Next Wave of Community College Reform

Dr. Karen A. Stout Presses for Campus Cultures that Prioritize Pedagogy

Achieving the Dream President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout called excellent teaching essential to improving student outcomes and argued that reform-minded community colleges should make support for dynamic, engaging teaching a central element of their institutional change efforts.

In the 2018 Dallas Herring Lecture “The Urgent Case: Centering Teaching and Learning in the Next Generation of Community College Redesign” delivered at the North Carolina State College of Education, Dr. Stout stated that early in the reform movement, community colleges focused on changing their structures and processes to prioritize the student experience, raise student outcomes, and reduce inequities. Despite the improvements those changes yielded, Dr. Stout acknowledged that community colleges still are not meeting their goals. She said colleges’ approaches “have lacked an explicit focus on improving teaching and learning as a primary lever for institutional transformation.”

To produce the educational success that students and communities expect and colleges want to deliver, colleges must begin building “a deep focus on pedagogy” and “a culture of teaching and learning excellence,” said Dr. Stout.

She proposed three key organizing principles as a framework that could support college leaders in developing the culture of teaching and learning excellence required for “scaled, accelerated, systemic and sustained results.” The principles are:

  • Full time and adjunct faculty use inclusive evidence-based instructional practices to foster student learning. These practices, described in An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Pedagogy, help bring the student to the center, lift their strengths, and empower them to be more autonomous in their journeys as learners.
  • Students are engaged as active learners in an accessible, empowering, personalized, and supportive academic climate. As powerful as inclusive pedagogy and an emphasis on growth mindset are, they alone are not sufficient to address students’ unmet needs outside the classroom for food, housing, and other essentials. Faculty have a role to play in connecting students to resources, but these new advising and coaching roles require new thinking about faculty-student interactions and appropriate tools and resources.
  • Institutions are creating an organizational culture that embraces professional learning for continuous improvement. This work involves engaging faculty at all levels in improving their practice, supported by structures such as Centers for Teaching and Learning, which are appearing in greater numbers on community college campuses.

Dr. Stout called out the role of Centers for Teaching and Learning “as an anchor for excellence across the institution.” To be effective, the Center’s work should be aligned with the institution’s student success mission, adequately resourced and staffed by people with backgrounds in faculty development, and well supplied with resources on research and best practices.

According to Dr. Stout, once leaders have committed to establishing the three principles described above as the expectations for teaching and learning on their campuses, they must delve more deeply into the specific practices and strategies that can serve as five building blocks to make a culture of excellence a reality. Leaders must:

  • Adopt continuous improvement models to drive innovation in curriculum and pedagogy
  • Invest in Centers for Teaching and Learning and align the work of the centers with their institution’s broader student-centered mission and student success agenda
  • Support faculty to approach their work from the diverse set of lived experiences, skills, and knowledge that their students bring to the campus and into the classroom
  • Develop and invest in an explicit adjunct faculty engagement strategy
  • Drive the design of a truly student-centered institution through teaching and learning.

View the livestream recording here.

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