Clarify the Paths
- Course sequences, critical courses, embedded credentials, and progress milestones
Career Pathways as a Framework for Program Design and Evaluation (posted 4/5/2018)
This paper presents a framework for evaluating career pathways programs. (Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education)
PRACTITIONER, PRESIDENT, AND PARTNER PERSPECTIVES
Jeff Rafn, President, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Pathways College (posted 4/5/2018)
Sometimes people are concerned about — if a person’s on a path, if they are going to be stuck on that path, that it’s very rigid. And, you know, we live in a society where we believe in free choice, and so, you know, when, you know, do you “force” a student or persuade a student to pick a path, and, you know, when do you let them just explore? I always think of this in terms of this upside-down funnel, you know, the students start, hopefully more in the K–12 system, they start out here with what they are interested in, and over time they begin to narrow what that is. And even the coursework that we’re offering out in the high schools that are part of the path, they are always the ones that will allow that student to go in a variety of different directions, although in that case usually in an occupational cluster. So, you know, they happen to be interested in mechanical things, engineering kind of things, using their hands. So we’ll have a set of courses they can take, and then when they are done they come here, they could be in an engineering program. They could be in a trades program. They could be in a machining program. So at least we give them those options. Now, we do expect that by the time they get to — ideally, by the time you are in your second or third semester, I mean, you’re pretty focused at that point at our college. Now, every one of our programs includes a certain amount of general education that is generally transferable to almost any of the degrees. So you know you are going to take probably between 18 and 21 credits of math, science, social science. But, you know, if you do want to switch from engineering to being a nurse, there is not a whole lot that you’re going to be able to take with you, other than those general education courses, and you’re still going to have to take anatomy and physiology, which I’m sure you didn’t take when you were in the engineering program. So it’s really important for us to be able to help that student sort through, you know, what do they like to do? Maybe it’s not the specific occupation, but they like working with people or, you know, they want to make a difference in a kid’s life, so you know, or they like to make things. And those are the conversations we have to have. Now, if a student decides they want to be something else or they called it wrong, we will sit down with them, try to figure out how much of that credit they can carry from here to the, you know, to the other program.
John Nixon, President (retired), Mt. San Antonio College, Pathways Coach (posted 4/5/2018)
Colleges are all over the map in terms of where is the locus of control for course and class scheduling? For some colleges, individual faculty in a sense schedule their own loads for a term. Or a department does it with faculty together. But for guided pathways, if you have well-defined program maps that take students from semester to semester to semester in a sequence of courses, you can no longer schedule courses as a Wild West of every individual faculty member making his or her own schedule. You really can’t even do it within a department or division. They all have to work together so that the courses are offered at the right times for the students in the right sequence over the course of, you know, three or four years — two, three, or four years. So those examples represent, from my experience, significant culture change at a college.
Laurel Williamson, Deputy Chancellor & President, San Jacinto College, Pathways College (posted 4/5/2018)
In the mapping process, we had some very definite criteria. We had a template. We had special particular criteria that we used to ask faculty questions that they needed to ask themselves about their programs. For example, when we were mapping, say, our computer information technology, we had the faculty look at the sequence of courses. There were lots of certificates in there. And so the question was, Do those certificates lead to jobs? Do those jobs exist in this region? Because it doesn’t matter if that job exists in Wisconsin. That’s not where our students are — want to be. Do those jobs exist in our region? Do those jobs pay a family-living wage? Those are tough questions. We actually had those faculty look at some of those certificates and then look at — try to find a job that fit the certificate. They had to go online, do job searches, all that. It changed some of what we were doing significantly at that certificate level. It changed some of our degrees because we found out there are no jobs for these, or the jobs don’t require a certificate, right? The student can just walk in. So that was one part of it.
Then when we began to map the general education courses, the components within the degrees, we didn’t want to just say, “three hours of social and behavioral sciences.” We wanted to say, “If you are going to take a transfer degree in communications, what is the best social and behavioral science for you to take?” We had to really process for the gen ed core courses as well as the math pathway where we put the student learning outcomes of all of the social and behavioral sciences courses that were in the core not identified by the course, just all of the learning outcomes. And then we asked the faculty, “So for your students who are going to transfer to the University of Houston—Clear Lake with a communications degree, which of those student learning outcomes are most important for that pathway, for that communications degree?” And so they would pick those learning outcomes. Then it would go back to the resource team, and they would identify which course that reflected.
I was given a full layout of every semester. Each semester was given a set amount of classes to take. I was fortunate enough to take some classes in high school that transferred to the college here, which saved me a lot of time and money. So I was able to pretty much follow the layout exactly. Some classes were taken out of order. For the most part, they do the order for a reason, because it usually transitions from one semester to the next very well. The class that I took out of order was a little more confusing. It was the next step from my previous class that I was supposed to take, but it did not fit in my schedule, so I took that class, the advanced class before the intro class, and so it was a little bit harder at first. I did talk with my advisor about it. He told me what I was doing, it wasn’t very much recommended. But after talking through it, he thought that it would be okay for me to follow through with it.