TOWARD A VISION OF ACCELERATED CURRICULUM & PEDAGOGY: High Challenge, High Support Classrooms for Underprepared Students

Dec 2nd, 2013


“A high quality college education is not about fill-in-the-blank exercises, canned solutions, and memorization without understanding. Developmental education shouldn’t be either.”

High Challenge, High Support Classrooms for Underprepared Students 

Addressing an important gap in the dialogue about college completion, Toward a Vision of Accelerated Curriculum and Pedagogy goes beyond discussions of curricular structure to focus on how faculty teach. This LearningWorks brief articulates a set of core principles and practices for teaching accelerated English and math. The report illustrates how teachers can support students with widely varying backgrounds and skill levels to be successful in an accelerated environment.

Developmental education is under an uncomfortable microscope these days. President Obama has called for dramatic increases in completion of post- secondary credentials, and legislators and policy makers have zeroed in on reform of remedial education as essential to meeting this goal. Four national organizations have called for an overhaul of English and math remediation that includes placing most students directly into credit-bearing college courses; tailoring math remediation to students’ chosen academic pathways; eliminating multi-level remedial sequences; and offering less prepared students redesigned accelerated classes or enrollment in a college level course with additional concurrent support.

The movement to reform remedial education is spurred by three important trends in the national research on community colleges: 1) studies showing that huge numbers of students drop out before making meaningful progress in college, and that the more layers of remedial coursework students must take, the lower their completion of college-level English and math, 2) studies questioning the accuracy of the standardized tests that sort students into different levels of remediation, and 3) studies showing significantly better outcomes among students enrolled in accelerated models of remediation.

While the research has clarified key problems in developmental education, and pointed toward promising directions for change, an important question is often missing from the conversation: What does instruction look like in an accelerated class? And how is it different from more traditional approaches to remediation? Drawing on their work with community colleges who have participated in the California Acceleration Project (CAP), a project of the California Community College Support Network (3CSN), community college teachers Katie Hern and Myra Snell advocate a significant break from traditional models of remediation.

Click here to download the full report.

Click here to download the executive summary.