Understanding Guided Pathways

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What is ‘Guided Pathways’?

Guided Pathways is the term adopted for a national college reform movement that began with research on community colleges across the country conducted by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University in New York City.

In their own words, “CCRC researchers Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, and Davis Jenkins argued that the ‘cafeteria college’ model that community colleges adopted to dramatically expand access to U.S. higher education during the 1960s and 1970s inadvertently created barriers to student success.” This ‘cafeteria college’ model was well-intentioned in providing students with a wide range of choices, but the researchers found that “the paths to student end goals were not clear, support for career and college exploration and planning was limited, too many students failed to move beyond prerequisite remediation, students’ progress wasn't monitored, and instructional innovation was focused on improving teaching in courses rather than ensuring that students were building essential skills across their programs.”

Bailey, Jaggars, and Jenkins argued in their 2015 book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges “for colleges to undertake wholesale restructuring of programs and student supports following the guided pathways model, which calls for systematic changes in policies, practices, and systems.”

Their recommendations were embraced by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), which provided support for the entire California Community College system to undertake the hard work of that whole-college reform, and adapted the ‘four practice areas’ recommended by the CCRC into ‘The Four Pillars’

What are ‘The Four Pillars’ of Guided Pathways?

four icons about pathways

Pillar One: Clarify the Path

Create clear curricular pathways to employment and further education.

We will help ensure that students have access to information about our programs and support services and are able to explore their educational options with a clear understanding of courses, recommended course sequences, program goals, and career and transfer options.

Pillar Two: Enter the path

Help students choose and enter their pathway.

We will help students develop their individualized education plans and register for courses that will lead toward degree completion in a defined timeline, ensure they take courses in their area of interest in their first year, have access to the necessary support services and understand how their plan will lead them to their career, transfer, and personal goals, while reducing confusion and unnecessary steps.

Pillar Three: Stay on the Path

Help students stay on their path.

We will help students make progress in their courses and programs through regular check-ins with counselors and educational advisors, providing guidance to ensure success in course registration and completion and maintaining strong student engagement.

Pillar 4: Ensure Learning

Ensure that learning is happening with intentional outcomes.

We will provide for students high-quality instructional experiences and access to appropriate student support services throughout their education, and ensure that faculty create well-designed courses built around course and program-level outcomes that provide the skills and knowledge needed for their educational, career, and personal goals.

What Guided Pathways seeks to achieve

  • Advance Equity: Removing barriers that today’s students face, particularly students of color, first-generation students, students from low-income backgrounds, and working adults.
  • Transform Institutions: A highly structured, comprehensive approach to systemic change to improve students’ attainment of skills, credentials, and socioeconomic mobility. It is founded on the principle that everything can and should change.
  • Redefine Readiness: Fundamentally shifting the conversation about what it means to put students first, encouraging colleges to focus on their readiness for students rather than students’ readiness for college.
  • Redesign Supports: Recognizing that students need more than financial support and resources to be successful. It allows colleges to recognize and holistically support students’ academic and non-academic needs.

According to the CCCCO, “every college is implementing Guided Pathways, an equity-focused framework that allows us to forge clear paths for students and remove systemic obstacles to their success. Guided Pathways is a structure to provide all students with clear enrollment avenues, course-taking patterns, and support services. This framework centers the student experience in system-wide decision making and helps us meet the goals of the Vision for Success and Call to Action.”

What does Guided Pathways mean for students?

For our students, our goals in embracing the principles of Guided Pathways are simple:

  • Improved course completion rates
  • Improved first-year student retention/persistence
  • Reduced time to graduation
  • Reduced units at graduation
  • Improved graduation rates
  • Improved transfer rates
  • Improved career readiness and job placement

What does Guided Pathways mean for college faculty, staff, and administration?

For our college faculty, staff, and administration, our Guided Pathways work seeks:

  • Improved cross-program, cross-division, and cross-college communication
  • Improved strategic utilization of data for program evaluation
  • Increased community presence and community awareness of college programs and student opportunities
  • Increased early use of student educational plans
  • Increased workforce partnerships

How we are implementing Guided Pathways

Our campus efforts started with work group discussions and completion teams, and then evolved into a formal committee (Pathways to Success and Equity) working in coordination with each campus area and stakeholder group to implement this whole-college reform. In 2022, PSEC was re-structured, its goals redefined, and renamed the Guided Pathways Committee. This committee will continue to lead the campus work of Guided Pathways implementation into the future.

Guided Pathways Committee

The Guided Pathways Committee (a Sub-Committee of College Council) uses a monthly review-plan-and-action cycle to develop and implement strategies that promote student success and equity in all phases of the student journey at Porterville College.

Under an Administration-and-Faculty Co-Chair structure, representatives from key areas across the college will support ‘Pathway Teams’ that represent each of our four Academic and Career Pathways as they promote opportunities for learning through the college and within our community and service area, identify and remove barriers to student success and equity, promote effective teaching-and-learning strategies, and help ensure successful graduation, transfer, and workforce entry goals. The Guided Pathways Committee (GPC) will serve as a hub in these matters for the college, for which communication from its representatives back to their respective areas of the college will be a necessary prerequisite for successful implementation of its recommendations.

The Guided Pathways committee is dedicated to the promotion and support of our college’s academic programs, and strategies that will promote the completion of the student journey with equity and success.