Florida College System Schools Creating Change

This piece is the third in a series spotlighting the impact that states, systems and higher education institutions are having when they engage faculty more fully in student success strategies, including the reform of developmental education.

 

In 2013, Florida became one of the first states in the country to enact legislation to take significant action on developmental education reform. Senate Bill 1720 dramatically changed the landscape for public higher education in Florida. Under the new law, placement tests no longer a requirement for college admission, allowing high school graduates to directly enroll in college-level courses for the first time. (Hu, 2019)

Implementation of the aggressive policy fell to the 28 member colleges and universities under the Florida College System (FCS). A series of system-led task forces and committees had been underway for years prior to SB 1720’s passage. The work during these early years to begin redesigning developmental course offerings and enhance student supports laid the groundwork for successful implementation (Smith, 2020). Data on enrollment and completion rates suggest that the change has had a positive impact: enrollment in and persistence through college-level coursework has increased, pass rates have improved, while Black and Hispanic students experiences larger gains (Park-Gaghan et al., 2020).

Showcasing a “Comprehensive Approach”: Indian River State College

Indian River State College logo

Academic leaders of Florida’s top community colleges have successfully embraced the changes through a spirit of collaboration and friendly competition. An “unusual number” excel nationally at preparing students both for university transfer and workforce entry through strong technical programs. High performance in both areas is a big reason why Florida’s community colleges routinely finish atop national rankings and jockey for the top spot in the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. (FL DOE, 2020).

Student-centered innovation is a pursuit shared across the FCS, an approach that has enabled them to move quickly and adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Ensuring faculty are partners in this work, they say, is crucial.

“For students to succeed, our faculty have to continually innovate every single day,” said Heather Belmont, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Indian River State College (IRSC), the 2019 Aspen winner. “You really have to change the way you’re teaching to help them succeed.”

At IRSC, that change starts with a comprehensive approach to professional development. As part of their onboarding process, a collaboration between IRSC’s Employee Development Program (EDP) and Institute for Academic Excellence (IAE), new hires are engaged in the college’s culture of teaching and learning. Over the course of their first year, new faculty are paired with veteran faculty mentors and have opportunities to attend a series of meetings focused on supporting their own growth and success at IRSC, join open discussions, and learn about the IAE’s offerings and trainings.

For Jodi Robson, director of the IAE, one of the most effective ways to build culture has been through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These PLCs–eight in total–cover a variety of topics and interests. They review literature for evidence-based research, as well as develop support systems for faculty. Throughout the year, the PLCs share their findings with faculty through multiple approaches (Belmont & Robson, 2021)

Robson has leveraged her passion for building communities through IRSC’s partnership with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). As IRSC has grown its partnership with ACUE to train and credential faculty in evidence-based teaching practices, she was inspired to launch a faculty learning community that extended to other Florida community colleges—and even beyond.

Robson, along with four other faculty developers across other ACUE Florida colleges, launched The Coffee Shop, a virtual professional development series through which participants share resources and showcase practical teaching techniques for continuous learning.

“It’s so affirming when participants share their enthusiasm about incorporating what they learned into their own classrooms,” Robson (2021) said. “I am excited to see how this program continues to evolve and expand to serve faculty across the country.”

 

Practice Spotlight: Broward College

Broward College logoRemoving barriers to post-secondary completion is a top priority at Broward College. The Fort Lauderdale-based college, which serves more than 50,000 students, is a five-time Aspen Prize finalist.

A cornerstone of Broward’s strategic student success is the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning (CTEL). When Broward needed to respond rapidly to Florida’s SB 1720 developmental education reforms, the CTEL helped faculty implement and scale a successful pilot using adaptive assessment software to enhance developmental math courses (Baker, 2020).

With the dramatic shift to online learning, teaching, and working, Associate Vice President and CTEL Director Julia Philyaw says “the CTEL team has been in overdrive” to ensure that the Broward community has access to, and comfort with, the new technology platforms, communication systems, and productivity tools needed to remain effective and connected. Between March 2020 and March 2021, CTEL offered a total of 970 offerings. (Philyaw, 2021)

Broward’s most comprehensive program has been an enterprising partnership with ACUE, which began with a five-year commitment to train and credential 500 faculty. After just one year, academic leaders say the impact was clear, with nearly all finalists for Broward’s Professor of the Year awards being ACUE-credentialed faculty (Broward College, 2019).

The strongest indicator that this approach to faculty development was positively impacting student success came in 2020 with the publication by of a research brief and technical report assessing the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years. The report showed that course completion gaps were closed for Black students and course-passing gaps were closed for Pell-eligible students taught by ACUE-credentialed faculty at Broward (Lawner & Snow, 2020).

“The program has already shown tremendous success in achieving equity among students,” Broward College President Gregory Adam Haile wrote in a Dec. 2020 President’s Update newsletter to the campus community (Haile, 2020).

 

Practice Spotlight: Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College logoTallahassee Community College (TCC) is laying a foundation to incorporate comprehensive faculty learning opportunities into its recipe for student success.

“Ensuring that faculty have ownership in their own professional development is critical to the success of teaching and student learning,” says Calandra Stringer, TCC’s Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Aligned with the launch of a new four-year strategic plan in August 2019, academic leaders convened faculty and staff for a two-day workshop that focused on equitably advancing a student-centered environment. Stringer says that the event included an exercise in which participants were presented with data revealing a nearly 30% equity gap in student success rates between Black and students.

A focus on removing barriers to student success paved the way for the development of a Teaching and Learning Framework, in partnership with Achieving the Dream (ATD). ATD surveyed and interviewed faculty to identify key areas where they believed professional development could be improved and strengthened. This information was used to identify topics and strategies to build professional faculty engagement, including a partnership with the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE).

Through the partnership, TCC offers up to three microcredentialing tracks per semester focused on:

  • Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Learning Environment,
  • Promoting Active Learning Online,
  • Inspiring Inquiry and Lifelong Learners, and/or
  • Designing Student-Centered Courses

In a matter of months, TCC completed five microcredential courses to approximately 140 faculty. During the 2020-2021 academic term, ACUE-credentialed faculty were invited to participate in an advanced professional development experience through TCC’s Center for Professional Enrichment, a community of practice that meets regularly to discuss lessons and dive deeper into specific teaching strategies.

Stringer credits the partnership with ACUE as being crucial to developing “a culture of practice that allows faculty to share with one another the teaching tools and techniques that are most efficacious for them.”

The work has paid dividends. In 2021, TCC became the latest FCS member named a top 10 Aspen Prize finalist, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. In addition, student success rates have steadily improved amidst unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19.

“The data is remarkable given the existing pandemic and efforts to sustain our enrollment.”

 

 

 

 

Association of College and University Educators. (2021, February 18). Coffee, community, and curriculum. ACUE Community. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://community.acue.org/blog/acue-partners-in-florida-build-community-of-professional-practice/

Baker, P. (2020, November). How partnering with the center for teaching excellence and learning helped Broward College launch an adaptive pilot. Every Learner Everywhere. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/blog/how-partnering-with-the-center-for-teaching-excellence-and-learning-helped-broward-college-launch-an-adaptive-pilot/

Belmont, H. and Robson, J. (2021, March 8). Personal communication .

Broward College. (2019, May 5). Broward College offers continued education training for faculty and staff. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://news.broward.edu/2019/05/ce-training-2019.html

Florida Department of Education. (2020, July 24). Florida College System institutions stand out as our nation’s best. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from http://www.fldoe.org/newsroom/blogs/florida-college-system-institutions-stand-out-as-our-nations-best.stml#:~:text=Focused%20solely%20on%20student%20access,earnings%20rates%20after%20graduation%3B%20and

Haile, G.A. (2020, December). President’s Update. Broward College. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.broward.edu/about/leadership/_docs/monthly-updates/decupdatefinal2020.pdf

Hu, S. (2019, April 9). A Florida developmental education reform is leading to greater success and equity. Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://postsecondaryreadiness.org/florida-developmental-education-reform-equity

Lawner, E., & Snow, M. (2020). Advancing academic equity at Broward College: Improved course completion and passing, Particularly among Pell-eligible and Black students. Association of College and University Educators.

Park-Gaghan, T. J. , Mokher, C. G. , Spencer, H. , Hu, X. , & Hu, S. (2020). What happened when developmental education became optional in the Sunshine state? The Impact of Florida’s developmental education reform on introductory college-level course completion. Educational Researcher. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/

Philyaw, J. (2021, March 12). Personal communication [email interview].

 

 

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