Teaching Philosophy and Pedagogy

More than two decades ago we began to develop an awareness that something was not quite right in our classrooms: individuals were arriving at college without the competencies necessary to engage in authentic collegiate work, including the ability to critically read, write, and reason.  Furthermore, many individuals increasingly expected high levels of recognition for marginal levels of commitment.

Reasoning that it would be unethical to “dumb-down” our courses in order to find the level at which students would and/or could perform, we realized that to offer authentic college level courses we would also have to offer opportunities for developing authentic collegiate competencies. Incrementally, we have created a High Demand x High Support (HDxHS) teaching pedagogy. HDxHS was first introduced by educator Nevitt Sanford in the 1960s. Sanford argued that for students to build collegiate competencies, they required considerable demands on the one hand, and high levels of support on the other. Thus, the reading requirements in our courses are substantial and students are required to answer complex essay questions by integrating and synthesizing their own ideas with those from class (based on Socratic dialogue) and the assigned literature. Students must also exhibit, or be willing to learn, self-management, time-management, prioritization, and other foundational strategies associated with general competence. These demands are buttressed by high levels of support, including extensive office hours, opportunities to gain feedback, including preliminary grading, on in-progress work, the ability to see the work of prior students, and a range of other opportunities detailed below (see the link Student Opportunities for Success in the Our Courses page).

Given the lack of college readiness demonstrated by most students, we do not expect students to possess the competencies necessary for such coursework upon arrival. However, we do expect students to build such competencies over time.  We also offer considerable support (more than students are likely to encounter elsewhere) in the process, including, but not limited to, extensive office hours and evaluation opportunities which are designed to minimize penalties for initial performance by encouraging and recognizing change over time. These features are designed with academic and developmental goals in mind. While literature pertaining to community colleges commonly equates the concept of “developmental goals” with remediation and remedial learning, we actively resist such definitions. In stark contrast, our definition and promotion of “development” and “developmental goals” pertains to adult identity development in post-industrial conditions (see Teaching Philosophy References below, especially Cöté, 2000; Cöté and Allahar, 1996; and Gardiner, 1994). Our courses are thus designed to prepare students for upper division collegiate work as well as to foster resilience, learned resourcefulness, and moral and ethical reasoning necessary for the overall demands of post-industrial conditions (see Teaching Philosophy References below, especially Kennedy, 1994; Cöté and Levine, 2002; Cohen and Brawer, 2003; Mesa Community College NSF Report, 2005; and Partnership for 21st Century Skills)

Below you will find references and graphic presentations of elements of our teaching philosophy and pedagogy. The list of references reflects our efforts over an almost thirty year period during which time we have attempted to understand and respond to common problems of entering college students, problems once believed to be unique to community colleges that are now recognized as endemic throughout higher education. The list reflects the evolutionary nature of our efforts. In the beginning we looked upon the problems as mostly an education issue. At that time our literature searches were more confined to education and learning related matters than they are now. Over time, our literature search has expanded to those institutions and processes that suffer from and cause the problems that first captured our attention. Appearance on the list does not necessarily convey endorsement, although it often does. We add to the list as the project evolves. If there are sources that others believe are worthy of inclusion that we have overlooked we are always appreciative of the benefit of extra eyes and ears!