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First-generation students in Wiley’s CIC/Walmart College Success Awards program enroll in “linked courses” that pair a developmental course (in reading or English) with a college-level course in either U.S. history or English composition. Professors for the linked courses coordinate class content and assignments.
 
The “developmental teacher” attends the college-level course (usually three hours per week) and uses the textbook and other materials from the college-level course to teach the developmental course. The students meet in the developmental course for an additional three hours per week.


Program Outcomes

The program, which proved to be effective in previous years with underprepared students, makes it possible for students to begin general education coursework immediately rather than wait one or two semesters before taking credit-bearing college courses. Initial results showed that a majority of the dual-enrollment students passed both courses and participated in class discussions at levels equal to or better than those of students not required to enroll in developmental courses. Participating students reported feelings of empowerment and increased confidence. This was reflected in increased retention. By comparison, of the students who enrolled in one of the developmental courses that was not linked to a credit-bearing course in the spring of 2009, only 35 percent remained enrolled and passed both courses.
 
More specifically, of the students enrolled in Developmental Reading Improvement II and U.S. History I, 61.3 percent passed both courses. Of those enrolled in Developmental English Fundamentals II and English Composition I, 70 percent passed both courses. Those not enrolled in linked courses were much less likely to pass (55.3 percent and 59.4 percent, respectively).
 
These results are significant because they show that through the methodology of the linked courses, students who otherwise would have waited one or two semesters before engaging in regular general education courses (while completing remedial work) had improved academic performance and now are able to succeed without delay through such linked courses.
 
A few challenges are particularly worth noting. The first challenge was to obtain enough synchrony between sections of a course attended by members of a given developmental cohort. As a result, a single syllabus has become the norm.
 
The second challenge was to obtain the buy-in of the developmental teachers. Teachers naturally develop their own methods and favorite ways of teaching particular subjects. Faculty members were led in discussions about learning theory and styles as well as the need to focus on overall outcomes being sought. The institution is strengthened by these faculty development initiatives.
 
Finally, the identity of the developmental students was withheld from the instructors in the college courses until the semester was concluded. This was done to overcome objections to enrolling students in college classes who had not completed remedial work. In the end, the college instructors were often surprised by the report of which students were developmental.


Program Updates

The college is continuing to develop strategies, such as including clearer performance objectives on syllabi and creating a more seamless linking of the courses, to improve the performance of students in the linked courses. The linked courses are now an institutionalized methodology.