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Conversation: Accelerated Classes

acceleration, conversations, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, professional development, teaching

There are many different approaches to redesigning developmental classes. This article from Academic Impressions explores a few of them, focusing especially on the assisted learning approach (where non-credit bearing classes are eliminated and students are placed into credit-bearing courses with extra support) and accelerated courses (where developmental classes meet for longer class periods over a shorter part of the semester, allowing students to move through them faster).

One program reporting great success with the acceleration model is Chaffey College. As they move to more and more accelerated offerings to capitalize on this success, they are also focusing on professional development that prepares teachers for the condensed, more intense teaching environment. To that end, they have created a series of resources for teachers, including this video of advice for first-time accelerated teaching:

I find it interesting that so many of the teachers sharing their advice on teaching an accelerated course focus on the need for the instructor to relinquish some control and allow the students to take more agency in the course.
When I first heard it, it felt a little counterintuitive to me. When a course is condensed to eight weeks, it feels like the instructor would need to be more in control than ever to fit the material in and make sure that the longer classes remain productive.
Upon reflection, though, I completely understand the perspective these teachers are bringing to the classes. Precisely because the class periods are so much longer and the pace of the class is so much faster, students need to have a vested interest in navigating their own educational path. I think this is also why so many of the teachers advised first-time teachers of accelerated classes to put faith in our students’ abilities to succeed and challenge them. I can imagine that nothing would be worse from a student’s perspective than having to sit in a classroom for two straight hours without feeling challenged.
I have not yet taught an accelerated course, but I am planning one for next semester. I hope to be able to take this advice into account as I plan a class schedule that will challenge, engage, and place trust in my students.
What do you think about the accelerated redesign approaches to developmental classes? What experiences have you had with this option? What advice would you give to teachers planning an accelerated course? What obstacles have you faced or foresee facing with accelerated courses? 
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