ATD recognized the importance of shifting ATD’s institutional support efforts to an approach tailored to evolve with the college as its student success work matures.
ATD’s new strategic direction, introduced in 2017, stresses services that are customized to where colleges are in their student success journeys; and to new areas like evidence-based leadership, holistic student supports, pathways, teaching and learning, and equity.
Results of the first decade had demonstrated that changing the college culture can change outcomes, but it has to be backed by a robust set of services that not only affect the conditions required for change but build institutional capacity to bring it about.
ATD’s new strategy would help colleges measure their institutional capacities and listen to what college leaders say they need; then match those needs with new services designed from ATD’s work implementing innovations and numerous R&D initiatives.
Following its own advice and guidance to colleges to adjust their models, practices, and services for an equity focus and stronger outcomes, ATD redesigned its network approach with input from its colleges.
The new customized model offers colleges a diverse suite of unique supports, programs, and resources that specifically match their student success needs and are available to institutions within or outside of the ATD Network. Launched in 2017, the model offers a number of service options of various intensities, durations, and price points for institutions to select from to meet their needs and advance their student success work.
To move to this customized approach, ATD made several changes in coaching. It is expanding coaching and mentoring to deploy a broader range of expert technical help through specialized coaches across the capacity areas and through expanded peer learning. ATD also is working to deepen its technical assistance capacity and aligning all college services, learning events, and grant initiatives to feed the seven capacity areas.
ATD coaching is central to helping colleges set goals and measure progress; connect institutions to expertise, technical assistance, and resources; foster a culture of accountability, inquiry, evidence, and collaboration; develop priorities and action plans; and leverage and analyze data for use across the institution. Recently, ATD moved leadership coaching from the University of Texas at Austin to be delivered in-house within the ATD organization where ATD’s data coaching work resides.
In 2018, ATD developed a new line of Holistic Student Services that helps colleges introduce a seamless, personalized student experience that connects students to crucial academic and nonacademic supports they need to reach their educational and career goals. ATD coaching, technical assistance, planning tools, and guidebooks help create a student experience in which there is “no wrong door” and the student is seamlessly connected to essential resources and just-in-time supports.
Based on 15 years of experience working with community colleges on student-centered and equity-based systems design, ATD launched services in 2019 to help colleges develop a culture of teaching and learning excellence by engaging full-time and adjunct faculty in leadership and professional learning roles that advance pedagogy; implementing inclusive, evidence-based, high-impact, culturally responsive practices; and providing opportunities for action research, reflection, and renewal.
Linking High School-College Student Success Networks
Another component of the new strategy included adding a national network to the organization.
On April 1, 2019, Gateway to College National Network became part of Achieving the Dream, a move that further extends the organization’s work into helping its colleges build stronger K-12 connections to serve the most vulnerable young people in our communities. This addition to ATD’s work will link high school/college student success networks to improve college readiness, expand personalized student supports, and broaden services to help colleges graduate more students from vulnerable populations—the core of the ATD mission. Bringing Gateway to College into ATD allows the organization to bridge secondary and postsecondary education and will help institutions and their communities establish a continuum of services that better position low-income youth and young adults to earn needed credentials and degrees to succeed in the workforce.
The merger allows ATD to further expand its focus on equity and leverage tools, coaching, expertise, and relationships to strengthen its support for its network of colleges. ATD will now have the capability to help colleges expand K-12/community college partnerships, dual enrollment programs, and innovations in customized delivery of holistic services for nontraditional student populations.
Creating a Culture of Teaching Excellence
Despite the progress colleges have made in introducing pathways, restructuring student services, and tackling barriers to student success outside the classroom, institutions have largely neglected doing what it takes to create a culture of teaching and learning excellence on campus. To address this problem, in 2018, ATD created a framework for improving teaching and learning. The approach was announced by ATD president and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout in the 2018 Dallas Herring Lecture at North Carolina State University, which identified three broad changes required by institutions:
- Full-time and adjunct faculty are using inclusive, evidence-based instructional practices to foster student learning.
- Students are engaged as active learners in an accessible, empowering, personalized, and supportive academic climate.
- Institutions are creating an organizational culture that embraces professional learning for continuous improvement.
The basic building blocks to establish the culture, which is the focus of new ATD services that will be introduced, includes:
- Adopting continuous improvement models to drive innovation in curriculum and pedagogy.
- Creating a hub of innovation on campus by investing in underfunded and underutilized Centers for Teaching and Learning.
- Supporting faculty to approach their work from the diverse set of lived experiences, skills, and knowledge that their students bring into the classroom. This includes helping faculty become a critical link between students and the services and supports they need to be successful.
Developing and investing in an explicit adjunct faculty engagement strategy. Part-time faculty comprise about two-thirds of faculty at community colleges but often report feeling professionally isolated with limited outreach to orient them to culture and, often, limited access to campus