Our Research

A Summary

Our in-progress book documents our more than 25 years of experience designing and implementing a High Demand x High Support (HDxHS) teaching pedagogy at the level of the community college. There are several critical features about our research. First, we contextualize our experiences and student data historically, politically, and socially as part and parcel of a host of problems and challenges that have emerged from post-industrial conditions. Second, we recognize that common problems in higher education are simultaneously a product of and contributor to widespread social problems. Third, we view our professional responsibilities as educators to extend beyond the classroom. Thus our teaching pedagogy is directed not only toward academic goals, but also those pertaining to institutional knowledge, developmental tasks, psychological flourishing, moral and ethical reasoning, and competent citizenship.

Reasons for Implementing a High Demand x High Support Pedagogy

Broadly stated, our pedagogy can be viewed as an approach designed to bring conventional measures of success in higher education (e.g. enrollments, grades, etc.) into closer alignment with the conditions they are purported to represent (e.g. reading, writing, reasoning, etc.). More specifically, our teaching pedagogy has developed in response to an ethical dilemma in higher education: how to offer authentic collegiate experiences when increasing numbers of individuals lack collegiate preparation, are often either unwilling and/or unable to engage in the effort and commitment required for collegiate preparation, but at the same time often expect high levels of recognition and reward for avoiding what is otherwise required for legitimate college-level work? This problem is exacerbated by the fact increasing numbers of individuals are graduating from college without what Gardiner refers to as “basic collegiate competencies” (1994: 9; see also 1998).

The community college plays an increasingly important role in the context of these problems. Although community colleges are successful if measured in terms of growth and the number of colleges and enrollment (of the 1,200 colleges, 300 of these have been added since 1989 and almost half of all undergraduates begin or experience some part of their early education in the community college), in other respects success is less clear cut, questionable enough for a recent article to merit the title “Few Remaining Dreams: The community college since 1985” (Brint, 2003).

An Evolving Process (In Context)

The process by which the pedagogy evolved (and is still evolving) represents an iterative approach whereby we (1) tried to learn about students in our classes (e.g. demographics, expectations, health habits, etc.), (2) consulted relevant literature about higher education and the forces that are both cause and consequence of it, and (3) implemented suggested strategies when and where it has been within our control to do so (e.g. office hours, feedback and pre-grading in-progress work, opportunities to ask questions inside and outside of class about examination questions).

Our findings – supported by an ongoing review of literature that spans a range of academic disciplines – suggest that the problems we are responding to within higher education are in fact pervasive in the culture at large and are particularly pressing when viewed in a broader context. The 21st century is something more than a new millennium in the western calendar. The 21st century represents a new economy (post-industrial) and a host of other changes (e.g. aging adulthood, citizenship, death and dying, health, religion, environment, etc.) that have led experts to suggest that “re-creating social development is the principle challenge confronting contemporary societies as we enter the 21st century” (Bronfenbrenner, 2000: 123) and that education’s new role involves nothing less “than a reeducation of human kind” (Kennedy, 1993: 331). In this context, competencies associated with a college degree are no longer a luxury. While educators of all stripes continually play the swan song of ‘getting more individuals into and retained by college,’ (the ‘customer model’) the real demand seems to be otherwise: society needs to find ways for more individuals to experience the burden and privilege of acquiring basic collegiate competencies.

Challenges and Alternatives: A New Kind of Professional(ism)

It is not our intention to suggest that the HDxHS approach that we have developed represents an unambiguous cure-all for current challenges. Rather, we suggest that we have learned a good deal about the nature of a problem that is otherwise hidden or distorted by existing professional practices. Besides involving unrecognized (e.g. pushed under the rug) costs, accommodating habits in need of attention/challenge in the service of the ‘customer’ model creates a barrier to the required reinvention of the community college and involves hidden costs to society.

According to Robert Kegan (1994) and James Côté (2000), most individuals (including many educated adults) currently function at cognitive and consciousness levels appropriate or earlier forms of society. Clearly a new model of professionalism or an entirely new type of professional along with, perhaps, even a new social contract between citizens and the professions is likely to be required if a rift is to be meaningfully addressed. Furthermore, even if society does not intend to address this rift, it will need to attend to what it plans to do with the consequences of not doing so.

Below you will find elements of our research, inclusive of qualitative and quantitative measures we have administered to current and former students, surveys we have conducted outside the classroom, as well as associated essays. If you have any questions or comments about our research, please contact us.

Works Cited:

Brint, Steven (2003). Few Remaining Dreams: Community Colleges Since 1985. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 586, Issue: Community Colleges: New Environments, New Directions, p. 16-37.

Bronfenbrenner, U., & Evans, G. W. (2000). Developmental Science in the 21st Century:  Emerging questions, theoretical models, research designs and empirical findings. Social Development, 9(1).

Côté, J. (2000). Arrested Adulthood. New York: New York University.

Gardiner, L. F. (1998). Why We Must Change: The Research Evidence. NEA Journal of Higher Education, Thought and Action (Spring), 121-138.

Gardiner, L. (1994). Redesigning Higher Education: Producing Dramatic Gains in Student Learning. Washington, D.C.: Graduate School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University.

Kegan, R. (1994). In Over Our Heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kennedy, Paul (1994). Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. London: Fontana Press.

Additional References:

Agin, Dan (2006). Junk Science: An Overdue Indictment of Government, Industry, and Faith Groups that Twist Science For Their Own Gain. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Griffin.

Ioannidis JPA (2005). Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med 2(8): e124 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124.

Shapiro, Ian (2005). The Flight From Reality in the Human Sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Taleb, Nassim Nichola (2007). The Black Swan: The Impact of The Highly Improbable. New York: Random House.

Ziliak, Stephen T.  and Deirdre N. McCloskey (2008). The Cult of Statistical Significance: How The Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.

References That Have Informed Our HDxHS Teaching Pedagogy:

Boghossian, Paul (2006). Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. New York: Clarendon Press/Oxford.

Gatto, John Taylor (2009). Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Glendon, Mary Ann and David Blankenhorn (editors) (1995). Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence, Character, & Citizenship in American Society. Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books.

Heclo, Hugh (2008). On Thinking Institutionally. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Lynch, Michael P. (2005). True to Life: Why Truth Matters. Cambridge, MA. MIT Press.

Sanford, Nevitt (1967). Where Colleges Fail. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shorter, Edward (1997). A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. New York: John WIley & Sons.