"Shouldn't Prerequisites be an Academic and Professional Matter?"

Published:
May
2006
Author:
Welch, Lynn
The breakout session at the 2006 Spring Plenary Session "Shouldn't Prerequisites be an Academic and Professional Matter" reviewed the findings of a recent Academic Senate Curriculum Committee survey that sought to gather information on the status of prerequisites in the community colleges. The discussion explored the role faculty should be playing in the prerequisite process. During the breakout we heard many of the 50 attendees confirm that numerous concerns other than academics seem to influence or drive the placement of prerequisites on courses.

It was widely agreed that the current requirement to validate prerequisites interferes with the academic integrity of community college courses. In addition, many schools depend on articulation agreements with four-year institutions to dictate the placement of prerequisites. Is a mandate from a four-year institution an appropriate means of determining the academic need for a prerequisite? While such a justification for a prerequisite may often be consistent with what faculty desire, does this satisfy our need to "validate" prerequisites?

The Academic Senate Curriculum Committee asked and received feedback from the field via a survey sent out last fall. The survey asked the following basic questions:

Are math and English prerequisites being implemented at your college for courses other than math and English, respectively?

Have you been able to validate these prerequisites?

If so, how were these validated? (i.e., what statistical method was employed?)

Does your college enforce prerequisites?

If your college either does not have math and english prerequisites for courses in other areas or it does not enforce such prerequisites, does the faculty perceive a need to alter how courses are taught as a consequence of the lack of such prerequisites?

Briefly explain how advisories are being used on your campus.

Has your college conducted research on the impact of advisories of enrollment,

Are enrollment concerns playing a role in the placement of prerequisites?

There were 61 total responses, including 40 Curriculum Chairs, 2 Articulation Officers, 2 Academic Senate Presidents, 10 miscellaneous faculty officers, and 7 deans, vice presidents of instruction, and various administrative staff. Here is a summary of some of the findings:

84.1% said prerequisites are being used for courses other than math, composition and reading.

Are these prerequisites validated?

68.6% of the 49 responding to this question answered yes.

31.4% said no.

12 skipped the question.

85.5% enforce the prerequisites.

Does the faculty perceive a need to alter how courses are taught as a consequence of the lack of prerequisites basic skills?

51.9% said yes;

25.9% said no; and

22.2% preferred not to answer.

53.2% said enrollment concerns are playing a part in placement of prerequisites.

What was also apparent from the survey was a general lack of understanding of what it means to validate a prerequisite; while we may be imposing prerequisites based on a need to meet external demands, this is not a "validation" of those prerequisites. The culminating consequence of the breakout and survey results was the unanimous passage of following resolution:

9.05 S06 Examine Processes for Establishing Prerequisites

Kathy O'Connor, Santa Babara City College, Area C

Whereas, Curriculum, including establishing prerequisites, is an academic and professional matter and Title 5 53200 establishes that faculty, through the academic senate, have the primary function of making recommendations with respect to such matters;

Whereas, The process of statistical validation of pre- and co- requisites has presented tremendous challenges, including circumstances in which faculty are unable to implement academically valid pre- and co- requisites;

Whereas, Complete and accurate student data for the purposes of statistical validation are difficult to obtain and require students to not succeed, contrary to our goal as faculty who seek to facilitate student learning regardless of student lack of preparation; and

Whereas, Non-validated pre- and co- requisites are routinely implemented at the request of outside agencies, regardless of the ability to validate such requirements, in violation of current policy;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with the System Office to review all policies, procedures, laws, and legislation related to pre-requisites, co-requisites, and advisories, including the current validation process;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges prepare recommendations for modifying the current validation process; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges review all recommendations, including possible changes to Title 5, at the Spring 2007 Plenary Session and, if appropriate, seek to implement desired changes.

Now that the resolution has passed, the Academic Senate Executive Committee will begin the next important step of working with the System Office to review policies, procedures, laws, and legislation related to and including the validation of prerequisites, corequisites, and advisories. Furthermore, the Academic Senate will prepare recommendations for modifying the current validation process; and possible changes to Title 5, at the Spring 2007 Plenary Session.

While there are many hours of research and reflection to follow, the first important step has begun. We have admitted there is a problem and we have recognized we are not powerless and we can work to change the process.