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CONTACT: Shouping Hu, FSU College of Education
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FSU RESEARCHERS STUDY THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION REFORM
Reports Suggest Ongoing Changes in Institutional Programs and Practices
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Researchers at Florida State University’s Center for Postsecondary Success (CPS) released two research reports assessing the implementation of Florida’s developmental education reform from an annual survey and site visits to Florida College System (FCS) institutions.
“The developmental education reform in Florida has strong implications for student success,” said lead researcher Shouping Hu, professor and CPS director. “It is important to know what colleges are doing on the ground and what works and what does not.”
In the first report, “Learning to Adapt,” researchers report the findings from extensive site visits to 8 FCS institutions in fall 2015 and spring 2016. The site visits included interviews with administrators, faculty, students, advisors and support staff members with a focus on the second year of the implementation of the reform.
The report highlights efforts to change advising and student support services by FCS institutions. Advising sessions are less prescriptive and more holistic with institutions providing more individualized information. Institutional leaders sought to bolster existing academic support systems by significantly restructuring academic support departments and services.
The report indicates that the four instructional strategies for developmental education required by the legislation (compressed, modularized, co-requisite and contextualized) were not implemented uniformly across the FCS due to a lack of clear definitions, but this allowed institutions to innovate and create solutions that worked with their institutional context to meet the needs of particular student populations on their campuses.
Because many students classified as “exempt” under the law opted out of developmental coursework, some FCS institutions began to shift their focus to making improvements to the gateway courses that students were now able to enroll in as well as to math courses that created a greater stumbling block to success than English.
“The FCS institutions we visited are doing innovative work to support student success,” said Tamara Bertrand Jones, CPS associate director and associate professor in higher education. “Our site visits provide us with on the ground perspectives that highlight both the benefits and challenges institutions face with implementing the reform.”
The second report, “Adapting to Change,” details findings from survey responses from 26 out of 28 FCS institutional leaders on their perceptions of the second year implementation of the developmental education reform.
The report indicates that the majority of schools reported advising challenges related to adviser workload as most schools reported that advising sessions have increased in both duration and in number of sessions per student.
To address the increased adviser workload, schools reported hiring more advisers and support staff, implementing new technologies and training faculty to assist with the academic advising. The report suggests that the majority of schools reported increased resources reallocated to face-to-face and online tutoring.
“Advising appears to be front and center for staff and faculty members alike,” said Toby Park, CPS associate director and assistant professor in education policy at FSU. “It will be important to continue to study ways in which our work could inform the advising process.”
The report also suggests that with the growing number of students from different academic backgrounds enrolling in gateway college courses, many schools reported that gateway course instruction and curriculum have been reformed.
“Administrators, faculty, advisors and other professionals have made concerted effort to adapt to the new policy environment and made substantial changes in institutional programs and practices,” Hu said. “It is important to see how those changes are related to student success in their academic pursuit.”
Both research reports are available on the CPS website at https://www.centerforpostsecondarysuccess.org.
The CPS research team will continue to document the implementation and evaluate the effects of the developmental education reform on student success. The research team has received a five-year $3.3 million federal grant to continue the research project. In July, the research team released a research report on student outcomes based on data from the first-time-in-college students from 2009-10 to 2014-15.
In addition to Hu, Bertrand Jones and Park, the CPS research team includes Florida State faculty member David Tandberg; postdoctoral research fellows Rebecca Brower and Chenoa Woods; and graduate research assistants Sandra Martindale, Amanda Nix, Sam Nix, Sophia Rahming and Keith Richard.
The Center for Postsecondary Success is a research center at Florida State University dedicated to identifying and evaluating institutional, state and federal policies and programs that may serve to improve student success.