As colleges across the two-year sector enter their second or third year of Guided Pathways implementation, many are taking a step back and asking a common question: “How are we doing?” But it’s tough to define progress for this new movement.
This summer, the Community College Executive Forum launched a Guided Pathways diagnostic to help community colleges assess their progress and identify areas for improvement.
We’ve surveyed over 1,600 college leaders and faculty members directly involved in Guided Pathways implementation on their campuses. We asked about everything from communication strategy to program map and meta-major design to support service quality. That way we could take a comprehensive look at Pathways implementation across campus.
As the responses continue to be tallied, here are some early trends that we’re observing in the data— and how they’re influencing Guided Pathways adoption across the sector.
When it comes to program maps, colleges put their money where their mouth is. Academic redesign and structured program maps have been the most notable feature of Guided Pathways since its introduction in the two-year sector. Unsurprisingly, program map construction and design was top of mind for our members, who rated it as both the highest priority and the initiative to which they had dedicated the most resources thus far.
Ill-defined processes—and not budgetary or personnel constraints—are the greatest obstacles to success. Although sector-wide economic and staffing woes have been well publicized, when it comes to Guided Pathways, college leaders said that ill-defined or unclear processes presented the greatest obstacle to successful implementation. Colleges that emphasize devising and communicating a clear campus-wide strategy can avoid this frustration and eventual stagnation that results from a poorly defined initiative.
Faculty give high marks to Guided Pathways’ effect on advising and student engagement, but remain concerned about restricting student exploration. College administrators frequently assume that faculty are strongly opposed to Pathway efforts and are unwilling or unable to see the benefits. However, when we polled 600+ faculty, we found that on average they believed that Guided Pathways had a positive effect on advising quality and both student success and engagement.
But some faculty did express significant concerns about the potential for pre-defined program maps to limit student opportunities for exploration. Clarifying the aims of Guided Pathways and the opportunities it provides for students to engage in structured exploration can ensure that faculty are bought in to the strategic mission.
Few faculty report being involved in more than a participatory role. While most faculty praised the positive impact that Guided Pathways had on campus, few reported being involved in implementation efforts as more than an observer. Including faculty perspectives in strategy- and goal-setting conversations provides administrators with insight into the day-to-day impact of Pathways reform on students, while also cultivating valuable faculty champions.