Tweet this Page
Keyword Search This Web Site

My Latest Book:

Access at Crossroads: Learning Assistance in Higher Ed., D. Arendale   Click this web link to learn about my recent book

Send Email Message to David Arendale
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Twitter Messages

     Access at the Crossroads Blog

    These blog entires identify best practices to increase success for historically-underrepresented college students including excerpts from my book, Access at the CrossroadsClick here to subscribe to this blog.


    Prerequisite Approach to Learning Assistance: Remedial Courses

    The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

    These classes—basic reading, elements of English, and basic arithmetic—assume students possess fundamental cognitive deficits in need of remediation. These courses focus on academic content typically covered in middle school or early high school. At most institutions, these courses are a prerequisite before students may enroll in the next course in the academic sequence (Boylan, Bonham, and Bliss, 1994). Exit competencies of remedial courses generally prepare students for subsequent enrollment in a developmental course by teaching the needed skills and knowledge. For example, successful completion of a remedial course in fundamentals of mathematics provides a student with skills needed to enroll in an intermediate algebra course. Few students could complete the fundamentals of mathematics course and have a high chance of success in a college algebra course (Boylan, 2002b).

    As described earlier in “History of Learning Assistance in U.S. Postsecondary Education,” four-year institutions offered remedial courses during the 1800s to meet the needs of students with poor or nonexistent secondary education (Maxwell, 1979). These remedial courses moved to the two-year colleges when they spread across the United States during the early 1900s (Cohen and Brawer, 2002).

    Few national research studies concern the effectiveness of remedial courses. A common finding among these studies is that these courses must be more integrated into the culture of the institution and bundled with other learning assistance activities. If they are not, outcomes are mixed for most students (Kulik, Kulik, and Schwalb, 1983; Roueche and Roueche, 1993, 1999). It is unreasonable to expect to overcome years of inadequate education or ineffective student effort in high school with a single remedial course. Without the provision of remedial and developmental courses, however, students from impoverished backgrounds and poorly funded rural and urban schools have less hope for success in college.


    Prerequisite Approach to Learning Assistance: Academic Preparatory Academies

    The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

    Learning assistance is offered at a separate academic preparatory academy. Such academic preparatory academies first appeared in the early to mid-1800s, when four-year colleges often felt the need to provide the equivalent of a high school education for potential college students because public education was not widely available in the United States. Public two-year institutions were yet to become available for most people. Although these academies required enrollment by students for a year or more, some modern-day preparatory academies are shorter length. Academic bridge programs for high school seniors prepare them over the summer to be more successful during fall at college. Bridge programs are often hosted by four-year institutions (ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, 2001). Research studies attest to the efficacy of such programs for improving students’ academic success. Research studies have documented positive outcomes, including higher college grades and higher rates of graduation (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005), stronger academic preparation and easier transition to college (Swail and Perna, 2002), and deeper connection with the college (McLure and Child, 1998).

    Another factor favoring the effectiveness of these high school–college bridge programs is the seamless flow of the education experience for students. Analysis of the national grade-cohort longitudinal study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that college enrollment immediately following high school graduation increased college degree completion rates (Adelman, 2006). Maintaining academic focus by students continuing their education immediately increased the likelihood of their timely college graduation. A review of the professional literature revealed a successful case study of this approach by St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, New York), a four-year, independent institution. Academic Services ( provides traditional learning assistance services and hosts the summer academic preparatory academy. It focus on graduating high school seniors who share characteristics of TRIO students such as predominately first-generation college attendees, low family income, and other variables that place them at higher risk for attrition. Activities include developing academic skills and acculturating them to expectations for college. The summer period provides sufficient time to develop simultaneously their essential learning skills while enrolled in rigorous classes.   Modern incarnations of preparatory academies also include private commercial schools such as Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Systems. Public two-year colleges through their function of preparing students for successful transfer to senior institutions are another example.

    The next blog posting will provide another of these approaches, remedial courses which are very different than "developmental" courses.


    Prerequisite Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills BEFORE the Students Enrolls in College-Level Courses

    This excerpt comes from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

    This first category of the three approaches operates as a prerequisite learning experience before the student enrolls in college-level courses such as college algebra, general psychology, or general biology. Activities include academic preparatory academies and remedial or developmental courses in English, reading, and mathematics. In the case of academic preparatory academies, participation precedes enrollment in any college-level courses or perhaps even admission to the postsecondary institution. Remedial and developmental courses may be taken while the student is simultaneously enrolled in other college-level courses. Successful completion of the remedial or developmental course, perhaps intermediate algebra, is often required by local college policy and serves as a prerequisite before enrollment in the college-level algebra course is permitted.

    Just because a student scores low on a college entrance examination for one subject area does not mean that all his or her initial courses will be remedial or developmental. As described earlier, a student’s academic skills lie along a continuum between novice and expert. Where the student is at the novice level, enrollment in a developmental course is essential, while in other academic areas they are average or perhaps expert.  

    Following blog postings in this series will provide examples of this preqluisite approach to learning assistance.


    Different Approaches and Systems of Learning Assistance

    The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column.

    Learning assistance encompasses a variety of activities and models with varying levels of efficacy for institutions and participating students. The variety of these models is a result of different policies, funding formulas, student population characteristics, historical traditions, campus culture, political decisions, and stakeholders’ expectations.  Better understanding of the choices taken when offering learning assistance occurs when it is categorized into different approaches taken at the institutional level. The three broad categories are based on where and when the particular learning assistance activity is offered: a prerequisite activity on the college campus before a student enrolls in a class for graduation credit; concurrent activity on the college campus while a student is enrolled in a class predicted to be academically challenging; and outsourcing of the learning assistance activity to another institution or commercial firm.

    The goal of these three approaches is preparation of students for academic success in a rigorous core curriculum of college-level course that exceeds the average of other college-level classes and is challenging for many members of the student body. This class has high withdrawal and failure rates. Sometimes it is called a “gatekeeper” class (Jenkins, Jaggars, and Roksa, 2009).  The name used to describe classes that offer learning assistance activities specifically designed to support the students enrolled in them are called “target classes,” as the learning assistance services are customized and “targeted” for serving students enrolled in that specific course. The focus is shifted from erroneously attempting to identify students at risk in the class to students in that particular class who are welcome to use the learning assistance activities to meet course expectations or as supplemental or enrichment experiences deepening their mastery of course content. Faculty members who teach this target class are involved to varying degrees with the learning assistance activities preparing students for academic success.

    The following three blog postings in upcoming weeks will share briefly about each of these approaches.


    Cost Estimates for Providing Learning Assistance

    The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column. 

    It is clear that a large percentage of students use learning assistance services every year. Some policymakers perceive this high volume of participation and wide range of activities as too expensive. Recent studies disprove this view. As pervasive as learning assistance has become, it consumes a minor amount of a given institution’s budget. The most recent national study (Phipps, 1998) estimates its cost at less than $1 billion of $115 billion in the public higher education annual budget. This amount includes spending on developmental credit courses and noncredit services (tutoring, drop-in learning centers) that a wide variety of students of varying academic preparation levels use. Saxon and Boylan (2001) confirmed this finding through analysis of other similar studies. Additional analysis by Phipps (1998) found the unit cost of remedial or developmental courses was less than other academic content areas such as English, mathematics, or business. Classes were smaller than for most core academic subjects but cost less. It may be because faculty members who teach developmental courses are paid less compared with faculty members who teach other courses. It may also reflect the heavy use of adjunct and part-time instructors for these courses at public two-year institutions, the primary providers of these courses (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).

    Others advocates (Phipps, 1998; McCabe and Day, 1998; Wilson and Justiz, 1988) argue learning assistance is essential for economic reasons because of the costs to society and the economic level of students who do not complete their college degrees because sufficient learning assistance was lacking. The United States risks development of “an educational and economic under-class whose contributions to society will be limited and whose dependency on others will grow. The risk increases for creating a culture and economy that ignores the talents of a large number of citizens” (Wilson and Justiz, 1988, pp. 9–10). McCabe and Day (1998) estimate that 2 million students each year will drop out of postsecondary education because they did not participate in learning assistance, which will negatively affect their own lives as well as the national economy. Alphen (2009) conducted a multicountry study of the impact of not completing an undergraduate college degree. Controlling for country-level variables, the findings confirmed the negative economic impact of people not obtaining at least an undergraduate degree compared with the cost of providing postsecondary education.

    Funded by the Lumina and Wal-Mart foundations, a national study investigated the costs and returns of providing academic support programs and the net impact on revenue at the institution. Institutions were two-year and four-year, public and private, of various sizes, and geographically dispersed throughout the United States. The study found that learning assistance was positively related to higher student persistence and increased revenue above the cost of providing academic support services (Delta Project, 2009). Another study focused on the Community College of Denver concerned the cost-effectiveness of learning assistance. Net revenue generated through higher rates of student persistence were significantly higher than the cost of the learning assistance services (Corash and Baker, 2009).


    Monsters University: The Way All Colleges Should Set up Web Sites

    I watched the Pixar animated movie, Monsters University, this evening. My history classes at University of Minnesota start up after Labor Day. As part of promotion for the movie, the Pixar animators created a website for the university with short videos touting the school's features, academic expectations, and the like. The website has been taken down (a victim of frequent hacking), but the short videos live on through a YouTube channel dedicated to it. In addition, to be very funny, the videos actually communicate some deep messages about belonging, academic and social opportunities, and the value of attending college. Take a look. Click on this link to go to the YouTube page so you can watch other videos.

    Living with Diabetes

    Normally this blog is focused on my academic work and scholarship by others.  A close friend and I were talking and the issue came up about my living with diabetes.  I shared the text below with him and thought maybe someone else might find it useful.  Unfortunately, diabetes is a fraternity that is gaining too many new members every day. 

    Dealing with Disease by Youself
    When you live alone, you do not have the luxury to just "lose it" by weeping or crying with the knowledge that the partner/spouse is there to excessively comfort, listen to the long complaints, and the rest.  I have the day job as professor at the University of Minneosta to keep me going and feel responsible to the kids in my history courses to show up prepared, grade their homework promptly, and attend meetings. 

    The Defining Moment
    My defining moment came when I was having my blood tested for being slightly anemic (a common diabetic fellow-traveler, not a big deal).  My general practitioner doctor sent me to the best doctor at the helath complex on the Minnesota campus for that, the hematology clinic.  I had no idea what it was.  Just another of the numerous clinics in this sprawling complex of buildings.  When I walked in I quickly realized this clinic served a large number of cancer patients.  Then I saw the child.  Probably six years old and lying on a gurney, too weak even for a wheelchair I guess.  It was impossible to guess the gender of the child.  The skin was like that of a white ceramic doll.  Except no facial or top hair.  The child's eyes were open, but lifeless.   I locked gaze with the child for a moment.  I think I tried to smile.  No reaction from the child.  At that moment, I guessed the child would never live to see Christmas.  That was the moment when all my angst over the numerous system failures of my body melted away.   

    Chronic vs. Acute Disease
    Diabetes is a chronic, but not an acute disease.  You die a little bit more each day and realize if you are lucky, you can finish life with most of your foot and only lose one or two decades of living.  Not all the afflictions hit you at once.  It is sort of like going to Baskin Robbins.  Trouble takes a number and waits its turn to attack.  I have a skilled family of doctors, staff, facilities, cheap prescriptions to keep going.  I try to help with going to the YMCA for exercise, watch what I eat at home, don't go out and eat steaks the size of car hubcaps, only eat out when doing so with a friend, and the rest.   

    I take ownership for causing all or part of my affliction and realize that genetics also played a part.  My body humbles me and encourages me to seek support from God rather than leaning on a family.  All life is precious and should be lived to the maximum.  I know too many people who died early from diabetes, particularly those from type one diabetes.  That was pure genetics and they contributed nothing to the consequences of the disease.  I feel responsible to those who are not here anymore.   

    A Slogan for Life
    I now include a saying at the bottom of my email messages.  I used to detest the email postscript message from others.   They always looked so happy and sometimes appeared to be trite.  Now I include the following message:  "Every day is Christmas when we make good choices. Those choices unwrap unexpected presents of joy that await us if we do our part and trust God for the rest."  I get the chance everyday to make choices.  Maybe not as many choices are available as be fore.  A favorite line from a Huey Lewis and the News song, "The Heart of Rock and Roll" says when talking about New York City where you can " half a million things at a quarter-to-three (in the morning).  I'm in bed at 3 am.  But no complaints from me.   

    The Journey
    Lots of people have stuff to deal with.  Some people with disabilities talk about others who do not appear to have physical problems as "TABS".  That stands for "temporarily able-bodied (TAB)".  It is not generally said in a mean way, but a recognition that eventually everyone will be afflicted short-term or long-term before they leave this planet.  For me, I focus more on enjoying each day and happy I have choices to make.  May I make them wisely.  I am a different person today as a result of diabetes.  I would like to think I am a better person.  I would prefer to have learned my lessons and shaped my character in a different way, but if this was the path to get where I am, so be it.  May your journey in life be one that makes you a better person.