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Story Faculty

New CSU Students to Benefit from Changes to Developmental Education

Christianne Salvador

Starting this fall semester, new education reforms are taking place at the CSU. Learn how faculty prepared to hit the ground running with big changes happening on campuses.

students in classroom

Judith Canner, Ph.D., has been preparing for this semester for the past year.

The California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) faculty member has taught math for eight years, however, with new university-wide changes to developmental education now in place, the professor is looking forward to big changes this fall.

Fall 2018 is the start of a progressive change in CSU policy that eliminates developmental education courses. These courses were previously offered to support students that are underprepared for college-level math or English, based on the results of their placement tests and high school accomplishments. Developmental education courses provided no credits toward a degree and students who took them sometimes ended up spending more time and money in college, increasing their chances of graduating later than their peers or dropping out.

With the changes to developmental education in place, all campuses across the state are revamping their first-year math and English courses, allowing students to gain credits for their classes starting on their first day on campus, while receiving academic support as needed.

The policy change is part of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025 efforts to improve retention rates, help more students obtain their degrees sooner and close achievement gaps between students from historically underserved communities and their peers.

Chancellor Timothy P. White issued Executive Order 1110 in August 2017, after months of consultation with faculty, students and campus administrators. With an eye towards improving student success, campuses began working on restructuring courses and creating new lesson plans. While the Chancellor's Office provided support throughout the process, offering various professional development opportunities such as webinars and workshops, each campus was fully empowered to innovate individual strategies that best cater to the needs of their specific students. In turn, preparing faculty to successfully execute the changes required campus-tailored approaches.

Throughout the past year, CSU's English and math faculty, such as Canner, worked diligently to ensure they will hit the ground running at the start of the fall 2018 semester through various preparation strategies.

Cross-Campus Collaborations

At Cal State Monterey Bay, introductory math courses now come with a one-unit class in addition to the three-unit general education math classes. The one-unit support class, known as a corequisite, provides complementary knowledge needed to succeed in the associated three-unit class. Corequisite classes are offered to students who have been identified as needing additional academic support through multiple measures of assessment, which include looking at high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

The corequisite class meets once a week and is structured to provide both curriculum assistance and skill-building, such as the development of study habits and time management skills, to increase the students' likelihood of success. Since the corequisite and GE courses are taken simultaneously and both provide college credits, the students' time-to-degree is not hindered. 

The new course structure incorporates students of varying levels of preparation in a three-unit GE math classroom. To ensure every student succeeds, Canner and her colleagues in the Math and Statistics department worked closely with the campus tutoring center, where they became empowered to teach with a more holistic approach.

"Our goal was to develop the courses so that every student in the classroom, regardless of preparation level, can achieve," says Canner. "Working with the tutoring center trained us to encourage peer-to-peer collaboration, manage students' math anxiety and instill their confidence in their classes. These skills are also useful outside of the math curriculum and will help them succeed to graduation."

Faculty also consulted with other academic departments on campus that could be affected by the new policy. Psychology and Kinesiology, for example, have upper division classes that require knowledge of statistics and therefore are subject to feel the impact of the changes. To ensure they meet the requirements of upper division courses, Canner and her colleagues redesigned their lesson plans by collaborating with faculty in other disciplines.

At Humboldt State University, faculty in the English and math departments teamed up to prepare for the changes. Lisa Tremain, an assistant professor of Language, Literacy and Composition Studies, says the implementation of an English corequisite course forged an interdepartmental partnership with math faculty and led to both departments learning from one another. Monthly meetings were held and the team participated in online discussion forums to share ideas. The partnership resulted in an enhanced and connected curriculum between first-year math and English.

Expert-Led Workshops and Presentations

California State University, Fullerton's (CSUF) faculty are using technology in their approaches to redesign courses that replace developmental education.

Cherie Ichinose, Ph.D, has been the faculty lead for redesigning courses with the use of technology at Cal State Fullerton. Three years ago, the associate professor of mathematics implemented a 'flipped classroom' model, where students complete a 10-minute module and submit a pre-assessment prior to each class session. The model enables both the students and the instructors to come to class ready to focus on the specific areas that students are struggling with.

With the changes in developmental education in place, a flipped classroom model will be combined with corequisite courses as well as stretch courses—the splitting of one GE class into two 3-unit classes across two semesters.

In preparation for the course redesign, Ichinose says faculty were trained to encourage a student-centered learning environment.

"Our intention is to meet students where they are, in terms of college readiness," says Ichinose. "This means examining where students struggle and what changes we could make to accommodate them."

Faculty training at the campus was provided throughout the fall and spring semesters last year and included presentations and workshops led by various experts: educators specializing in first-generation students, associates at faculty development centers, Academic Services departments on campus and the dean of students. Technology also played a role in training, with webinars created for faculty to share strategies and best practices with each other.

Stellar Faculty Leads to Student Success

CSUF faculty began implementing the newly-designed courses this summer and their strategies are already proving to be highly effective. In June, students who would have been assigned to a developmental education course prior to the policy change were given an opportunity to enroll in Math 110, a GE math course that combined the corequisite and flipped classroom model. The course finished with 80 percent of students passing - the same pass rate as previous years when the class only consisted of students deemed college-ready. The result is a significant improvement from the previous 70 percent pass rate in GE math for students who started college in developmental education.

The CSU is making strong progress toward its goals of improving graduation rates and closing achievement gaps, in large part due to tremendous efforts from the university's stellar faculty. Strategic planning and the development of creative course models necessitated by the new policy change demonstrates CSU faculty's strong devotion to ensuring every student succeeds.

Graduation Initiative