Spotlight on Innovation: A New Take on Developmental Education at Gateway Community and Technical College

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The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar "First in the World" grants to 24 colleges and universities that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

by Lisa Cook, Academic Impressions

There has been no shortage of research documenting the extent to which developmental education courses under-serve academically under-prepared students; traditional dev-ed curriculums typically award no college credit yet cost students time and money, while showing dismal persistence rates. In the past couple of years, we have seen a number of colleges and universities undertake innovative and impactful reforms of their developmental education.

Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, KY, is currently engaging in such a reform through its Flexible Learning and Exploration space (FLEXspace) project, which is funded by a $3.4 million First in the World grant.

We reached out to Kristen Smitherman, project director; Kerri McKenna, division chair of developmental education and orientation and assistant professor of developmental writing; and Doug Penix, director of learning environments, to learn more about Gateway's new plan for improving retention and completion rates among populations with at least one developmental need.

Gateway's FLEXspace is a three-pronged revision of developmental support:

  1. Redesign of developmental education programs
  2. Establishing active learning environments
  3. Establishing an Information Commons as a one-stop shop for both academic and non-academic support services

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