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Community Colleges in America
In 1983 and 1984, a dozen major reports on the United States' schools were published. All stressed the need for "excellence" in education. These reports are the subject of: Excellence in Education: Perspectives on Policy and Practice. The reports pertaining to higher education were published by The BusinessHigher Education Forum, and saw higher education as "unable to train skilled managers and technicians that they believed industry needed." (Altbach 32) These reports essentially claim that student achievement has declined at technical schools because schools "do not demand enough of their students, do not apply stiff criteria for promotion, do not test students enough, and particularly in high school, provide students with too many choices about what subjects they study." (Altbach 32) These reports are somewhat dated in that they compare American students with Japanese students and focus on technical proficiency vs. The intuitive grasp of problems and methodologies for solving these problems, since cited as a forte of American workers. The reports hold that graduates are mediocre at best -- and that this mediocrity (which is directly produced by the schools) is responsible for high unemployment rates and America's decline in defense and in world trade. The Paideia Proposal and the College Board Reports claim that colleges have slackened their admissions requirements, letting in a larger proportion of unqualified applicants. These reports claim that schools can rectify this matter by teaching students more English and Foreign languages, focusing on the sciences at the high school level, and then using aptitude tests to measure performance in these subjects at the college level. These reports fault schools for not encouraging students to enroll in math-related or biology programs.
In "A Handbook on the Community College in America," Baker, Dudziak and Tyler provide a comprehensive study of the history and development of the 2-year college, current teaching methodologies, and how these colleges function in an urban setting. In "Part 3: Curriculum and Instructional Development in The Community College," the third chapter of the Handbook, Albert Smith details the teaching practices utilized in American Community Colleges. The chapter includes "a brief history of instructional innovation and change in U.S. community colleges, describe the increasingly diverse student body that now attends U.S. two-year colleges, and consider the future, including a discussion of some learning principles, a learning theory, and research on community college faculty that should be useful to community college faculty in future years."
(Baker, Dudziak and Tyler 206) The book not only talks about teaching methodologies at 2-year schools but also dedicates sections to the history of community colleges and how they interact with the urban learning environment.
In "Students' Learning Styles in Two Classes Online Distance Learning and Equivalent On-Campus," a journal article by Ryan B. Cartnal and David P. Diaz of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, the authors discuss the comparative merits of online and classroom instruction, and conclude that 'telecourse' learning is best suited for those who have gained some experience through work, such as adult learners who wish to acquire or finish a degree online. "Successful telecourse students [prefer] to look for abstract concepts to help explain the concrete experiences associated with their learning. That is, they wanted to know "why" certain things happened in conceptual or theoretical terms. This more abstract approach clearly favored success in the telecourse." (Cartnal and Diaz 130) The study also found that students in a distance learning class who possess a more independent and conceptual learning style scored higher in all of the student achievement areas than people who had a more social and conceptual learning style. A regression was used, in which it was found that "Correlational analysis within the online group showed a negative relationship between the independent learning style and the collaborative and dependent styles. In other words, people who were more independent in their learning styles also tended to be less collaborative and dependent." (Cartnal and Diaz 130)
Richard Miller, Charles Finley and Candace Shedd Vancko's work, "Evaluating, Improving, and Judging Faculty Performance in Two-Year Colleges" focuses mostly on improving the performance of teachers, although it isn't as heavily dependent on new methodologies than many of the other works are. He looks to the institutional culture of these colleges as to provide an example for teachers. His perspective is the opposite of those found in 4-year schools: the professors in such institutions professors are revered and many believe the administration to be poorly organized.
Jonathan L. Ross, a doctoral candidate in educational technology, and Robert A. Schulz, a professor of management, at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, address methods in which the World Wide Web can be used as a teaching tool in "Using the World Wide Web to Accommodate Diverse Learning Styles." To the credit of the Internet, the authors argue that it is more likely to suit the student's individual needs and save the professor time. They argue that it can also broaden the subject matter and give the student more reasons to learn. However, they also make the argument that the Internet can favor students that are familiar with its use and make material more time consuming to develop. The authors also point to the steep nature of the learning curve as a barrier to Internet use. The article says that the Internet helps stimulate students' auditory and learning styles. The article also contrasts linear and abstract thinkers and the way these two types can approach the Internet.
In The Two-Year College; a Social Synthesis, Chapter 8 deals with "Curriculum and Instruction." Here the author claims that the curriculum represents institutional culture, although it is limited by differences of opinion. "In addition to this central difference of perspective, a number of other curriculum determinants present themselves. In general, these may be subsumed under three main headings: extra-institutional influences, intra-institutional influences, and administrative or mediating influences." (Blocker, Plummer, and Richardson 202) It makes the point that the four-year colleges because of the nature of the transfer program determine a lot of the curriculum, and that state and national governments have some bearing on course material because they provide most community college with funding.
In Empowerment and Democracy in the Workplace: Applying Adult Education Theory and Practice for Cultivating Empowerment, John Dew reviews methodologies used in adult education and surveys methods that could be used to introduce them to the workplace environment. He speaks specifically of the factory environment, where he argues that it is crucial to maintain technical proficiencies when technologies are rapidly changing. "The first approach is rather simple. Ask each person to list the jobs they perform, and beside each job, write down what skill or special information is needed. Then, determine if this skill or knowledge is a standard part of the educational curriculum that a person in this position would already know, or see if there is special training needed." (Dew 57) Dew goes on to speak of the use of technology. "Many organizations are addressing the training issue through the use of videotape and computer interactive training. If vocational training can be placed on videotape or on a personal computer, then the employee can refer to the training when needed, or can review the information at times that are convenient to the employee. Where possible, videotape and computer training should use actual employees to give the content of the presentation." (Dew 58)
Penelope Herideen's Pedagogy, and Social Inequality: Community College Student Realities in Post-Industrial America explores the effects of educational reform on some students in its first chapter, The Impact of Educational Reform on Nontraditional Students. It describes these programs by saying "The Clinton Administration's perspective on education rests on the human capital model. This model reflects a concern that the United States is losing its competitive edge in the world market. Investment in education is the recommended proactive strategy to upgrade the skills of workers for a technologically advanced workplace. People are viewed as human capital to be invested in to assure this goal." (Herideen 9) She claims that the administration made the assumption that they typical community college student thinks and learns like a traditional high school student, whereas students are typically adults (non-traditional students,) returning to school for an advanced education or special training.
In The Community College: "Educating Students at the Margin Between College and Work," a journal article by Thomas Kane and Cecilia Rouse, the authors "survey the available evidence on the impacts of community colleges on educational attainment and earnings." (Kane and Rouse, 63) The authors go on to comment on the changing nature of teaching at these institutions: "Originally, junior colleges focused on what is termed the "transfer function": students would complete two years of a general undergraduate education and earn an associate's degree at the two-year college, and those who wanted and were capable would transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor's degree. Since then, two-year colleges have broadened their mission to include vocational degree programs, continuing adult education programs, and workforce, economic and community development…[continue]
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