Dev Ed/ABE Toolkit: Chapter 2 – Part 3
For unfamiliar terms, agency names, or acronyms, please see Glossary.
Navigate to sections of Chapter 2:
- Part 1 – Where to Start, Securing Campus and ABE Administration Support, Formalizing the Partnership, Funding the Partnership
- Part 2 – Selecting Instructors for the Partnership, Partnership Roles, Courses Suited to Collaboration
- Part 3 – Advance Planning, Revising Over Time, Sustaining Your Partnership
Chapter 2 – Part 3
Finding a partnership rhythm takes time. Give it a semester or two before coming to any hard conclusions, or worse, giving up on it. Remember, your organizations have created the space and time for you to experiment and to try to find innovative ways to improve student success.
Part 3 Objectives
- To communicate to readers the critical need for advance planning in the startup phase and why this is so important
- To give readers a sense of how a partnership may take time to mature, how and when it finds its rhythm, and key elements for sustaining a partnership
Advance Planning is Critical
One of the greatest challenges in partnering with the college may be determining faculty or staffing assignments, especially when made critically close to the start of a semester. Therefore, it is recommended that assignments be made well in advance of the semester to allow sufficient time for planning that is needed.
Faculty and staff assignments should be made long before the semester in which the course is to be taught. Some partnerships have suggested it take place at least one semester prior. The planning phase should provide ample time to support on-ramp activities, such as professional development and training of partners and discussions with staff impacted by the changes brought about by the partnership (e. g. , advisors, counselors, navigators, and financial aid advisors).
Additionally, time is needed to develop common learning objectives and outcomes, for determining the most appropriate instructional model and degree of integration between ABE and Dev Ed, which is discussed in-depth in Chapter 3. During this time, the partners will develop the curriculum map and syllabus to guide the semester. Both ABE and college instructors have content standards or professional/technical standards which need to be addressed, and the partners need time to ensure that the course content aligns to those standards, and that each partner contributes to student success.
Partners also need to determine how student outcomes will be measured and which assessment tools will be used. Ideally, multiple assessment measures provide the greatest amount of information and likelihood of success.
Being teams involving two systems will pose operational challenges, a best practice to emulate is the establishment of routine communication channels to cover:
- Learner updates, just-in-time supports or interventions thought to be needed
- Upcoming calendar: the content to be covered
- Any need to revise roles and duties
- What needs to happen next week and by whom
Can We Launch a Partnership if We Don’t Have the Luxury of Time to Pre-Plan?
Although not recommended, last-minute onboarding may be a reality, especially with the ever-changing enrollment and class sizes in developmental education. For a relatively mature project with institutional awareness and support throughout the department and the ABE program, the partnering team could manage with semi-regular communication throughout non-teaching times and a significant ramp-up in the week preceding classes to formalize the plan and to “dust things off. ” Hopefully every partnership will enjoy that kind of stability and longevity, but for a new project, or one involving brand new participants, more time is crucial. If you don’t have the luxury of a full semester for advanced planning, a minimum of 3 weeks is recommended. (Note: no mention of the specific hours needed is included in this recommendation). This could allow for both instructors to get acquainted, review the instructional materials, select the support tools to be used, and reach some level of comfort with each other and their respective (decided upon) roles.
If you find yourself in a shortened onboarding timeframe, consider creating a shared document for team planning, which can quickly be posted and communicated, with concerns and unresolved issues highlighted to grab attention.
Official class lists found on e-Services are often not open to ABE instructors, thus the college instructor should remember to disclose changes in enrollment. The first week of a new semester is jam-packed with informal assessments, community building, email and D2L orientation, etc., so creating a simple tool to share student names as they drop or add the course helps the team work more seamlessly. Along those lines, it is best to create a detailed plan of who is doing what.
Documentation of roles can be created and suggested in short planning meetings. Some items are best “figured out” within the first three weeks of class. Partnerships must discuss the priorities of programming and agree upon a timeline/schedule for the course provided.
Additional considerations to be explored in the pre-planning stage include:
- The difference in timing between the partners’ organizations (holidays, staff development obligations, conferences, semester start-end dates, and other time-related potential conflicts).
- Depending on the level of integration, the need for planning coverage strategies, such as when a partner is missing, what happens? How is the continuum of learning preserved for the students?
Once the course is over, don’t forget to allow for post-planning/reflection time, and review of student and partner determined measurements, which is vital to the growth, improvement, and sustainability of the partnership.
In sum, rapid onboarding is never recommended; providing at least one semester advance time for the planning is a proven best practice. However, with quick notice planning, priority needs to be given to what has to occur within the first two weeks of class. The partners then should lay out a longer sketch of the semester and set up weekly check-in meetings. These three items have proven to be the most successful when you don’t have the semester lead-in to planning.
Tweaking, Revising, and Finding Your Rhythm Over Time
Once programming has been established, it is important that partner instructors continue to be supported, allowing them to gather as a team to plan and revise course outlines and content. Depending on the intensity and number of classes being offered in partnership along with the number of students enrolled, weekly meetings may be necessary, although more frequent meetings may be desirable. More experienced partners will find that regular meetings can be spread out over a longer period of time with much of the communication about classes taking place through email or through debriefing at the end of class sessions.
Tweaking and revising will naturally occur. Partnerships gain the advantage of perspectives and content-specific talents which lead to a desired rhythm and tempo over time. College and ABE instructors get to know each other and learn to respect each other’s differences as much as their similarities.
There are certain times or circumstances which make it an ideal time to assess the partnership and how it is working. These include the need to revise curriculum, when switching textbooks, or when moving to an OER (Open Educational Resources). These times can invite conversation about what went well in the past and what could use some improvement. A well-functioning team will continue to place student needs as the focus when evaluating needed changes or tweaks.
The number one reason partnerships fail is when communication breaks down. Have a plan for how meetings will be structured and know the mechanism that allows everyone to have a voice. Facilitated meetings in the beginning can be very helpful. Every model will be different but regardless, having both partners know when something changes and the reason why it did is important. Over time, team members will lean into each other’s strengths. With these tips being practiced, they will discover that taking risks becomes easier, knowing they have each other’s respect and mutual trust. And this is when the partnership finds its rhythm. However, this is not always the case. Not every partnership will bring out the best in each other, and it is okay to explore options at the end of the semester. As part of your communication plan, have a path for this to be addressed, remaining as professional as possible.
Partners should go beyond their own perspectives when sitting down to evaluate progress. One way to do this is to get feedback from other college or ABE colleagues involved in the partnership. Ask them to reflect on how they think the partnership is going. Don’t forget to ask the students themselves. Ask them, “Is this new model helping you gain access to the academic or life path you want to pursue?”
Stay student-centered and goal focused. Develop your “measures of success” and carefully communicate and reflect on them throughout the semester. Know what data you want to look at and how you will collect it. Understand that Dev Ed student success cannot be measured only through empirical data, but also through qualitative information, which includes the student’s reflections of their experiences.
Lastly, don’t panic! Finding a rhythm takes time. Give it a semester or two before coming to any hard conclusions, or worse, giving up on it. Remember, your organizations have created the space and time for you to experiment and to try to find innovative ways to improve student success.
Recommendations for Sustaining Your Partnership
The partnership is sustainable so long as the partners are on the same page and when everyone is willing to go the necessary distance to maintain the partnership. Your partnership may grow and add team members over time, but experience shows maintaining the core team makes inevitable changes more manageable and can even lead to the partnership flourishing.
There are so many things that make these partnerships sustainable including flexibility, accountability, kindness, the ability to experiment with new ways of teaching, while constantly evolving and tweaking. If something goes well, expand it. Be willing to let something go if it shows little improvement. Focusing on the students’ successes will be the best guide to having team success. When ABE staff are viewed on a college campus as valuable and necessary, this helps the players continue with positivity and vigor.
Part 3 Checklist
It is best to use this checklist with your partnership team to include minimally Dev Ed and ABE managers, and Dev Ed and ABE instructors who will be partnering. If you don’t yet have a team, please return to this checklist when you do.
At the end of this chapter, you or your team should:
- Be fully aware of the need to set aside advance planning time for the partnership team and the two instructors
- Be able to consider the amount of time needed for partner instructors to devote to ongoing planning and coordination, factoring in realities such as it being a brand-new partnership or one that benefits from experienced classroom collaborators
- Be able to identify what the number one reason is for partnerships failing
- Be able to articulate to each other, what leads to partnerships maturing and being sustained over time