“A confluence of economic, demographic, and political factors is causing individual two‐ and four‐year institutions and entire state higher education systems across the United States to transform their programs in ways that create clearer, more educationally coherent pathways to credentials that lead to careers and further education in fields of economic importance to regions and states. These ‘guided pathways’ reforms involve more clearly mapping programs to specify course sequences, progress milestones, and program learning outcomes to ensure that students know what they need to do and learn to prepare for employment and further education in their field of interest. "
“Guided Pathways Scale Adoption Initiatives” CCRC 2016
What is a guided pathway?
A guided pathway offers students an onramp with training in core skills, a clear course sequence mapped to specific off-ramps such as certificates, jobs, degrees, and transfer, and supportive recognition of progress milestones. A pathway integrates educational programs, academic counseling, career counseling, success coaching, and real-world career exposure in one clearly mapped pathway.
Design Features of Guided Pathways
Adapted from the CCRC “Redesigning Community Colleges for Student Success Overview of the Guided Pathways Approach” (CCRC, 2015) and the “College to Career Pathways: Getting from Here to There on the Raodmap for a Stronger California Economy” (CCCCO, 2015):
Degree Maps (CCCCO). Rigorous, sequential, and clearly articulated course maps with multiple entry and exit points, transition support between levels of the pathway.
Exploratory or “meta-majors” (CCRC). Students who do not know which program or pathway they would like to enter, enroll in an exploratory “meta-major” pathway that introduces students to the disciplines and career options for the various programs available in the meta-major. The exploratory pathway gives students a taste of the course and career offerings while guided students toward making an informed decision about their educational and career goals.
Career Counseling/Navigation Services that are Proactive and Integrated within the Pathway (CCCCO). Career navigation structures and counseling is integrated into the pathway milestones and curriculum. Students are exposed to career options in the field early. They are informed of the cost, quality, and time commitment of the pathway, as well as the regional job growth data to help students identify the best educational and career pathway for their interests and career goals.
Bridge programs and transition support (CCRC & CCCCO). Bridge programs and transition support help students succeed at each level of the pathway. Bridge programs provide a clear bridge between a student’s entry point and college programs. Students are supported through that transition with the support of a student success team such as counselors, tutors, and advisors.
Predictable Schedules (CCRC). Pathway programs place students in programs that are pre-sequenced with a set program-wide schedule to assist students in timely completion of the program. The schedules allow students to plan their lives around their education.
Work-based learning and contextualized instructional strategies (CCCCO). Instruction should be relevant to the student’s educational and career goals through contextualized basic skills courses to project-based learning that teaches students real world skills that can be applied in the workplace.
Multiple entry and exit points (CCCCO). Many community college are working part-time and managing other responsibilities while struggling in other areas, students are often faced obstacles that require taking a break from school. Clear entry and exit points should be mapped out in the pathway to ease this transition in and out of the pathway.
Progress tracking, feedback, and support (CCRC). Counseling and advising services are focused on recognizing both academic and non-academic milestones. Early alert systems are in place to flag students who are struggling, prompting proactive support to mechanisms to reach out to the students.