Developmental Education is More Than Remedial Classes

Reading the popular and professional press reports about developmental education and learning assistance would suggest the only service provided is enrollment in remedial and developmental-level courses. I use those two terms interchangeably in this blog posting, but most of the time I will use "learning assistance" for reasons revealed in future entries to this blog. There is so much more in terms of services and so many more students participating in academic assistance and enrichment. The stereotype that the only service is nongraduation credit college courses is wrong and harmful to the field and the wide variety of students served. With the President's priority to raise college graduation rates dramatically, this field is more vital than ever.

Learning assistance meets the demands of rigorous col­lege courses through highly varied activities and approaches. The historic role of learning assistance in the larger scope of U.S. higher education is sig­nificant though sometimes low profile. Learning assistance bridges access for a more diverse student body. From students’ perspectives, it helps them meet institutional academic expectations and achieve personal learning goals. From the institution’s perspective, it expands access to the institution and supports higher expectations for academic excellence.

There is no universal manifestation of learning assistance. On some cam­puses, it expresses itself through noncredit activities such as tutorial pro­grams, peer study groups, study strategy workshops, computer-based learning modules, or drop-in learning centers. Other institutions add to these activities by offering remedial and developmental courses, study strat­egy courses, and other services. A few colleges support learning assistance for graduate and professional school students through workshops on disser­tation writing and effective studying, strategies for graduate school exami­nations, and preparation for licensure exams at the conclusion of their professional school programs. Students from broad demographic back­grounds access one or more of these services from all levels of academic preparation and at various times during their academic career. The diverse language used to describe learning assistance depends on institutional cul­ture and history. Some terms associated with these activities throughout his­tory include preparatory, remedial, compensatory, developmental, and enrichment, to name just a few.

Learning assistance provides a universal description for this wide variety of expressions, activities, and approaches. It is the term used most generally in the report, Access at the Crossroads: Learning Assistance in Higher Education. I will be sharing excertps from this recent publication by Wiley/Jossey-Bass. For more information about the book and how to obtain a copy, click on this link Enjoy.