What’s Faculty-Driven About Guided Pathways?

ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force

Guided pathway frameworks are designed to help students successfully move from their previous school or employment into college and on to a goal: a certificate, degree, transfer, or discrete set of skills. Student involvement is essential so that every element of a framework will be focused on student success. In the April 2018 Rostrum, Julie Bruno, then the ASCCC president, wrote about the involvement of students in governance and explained the legal foundation for their involvement under Education Code and Title 5 §51023.7, which contains the “9+1” areas in which student voice must be included.[1]

Most of the items listed in the 9+1 overlap with faculty purview over academic and professional matters as delineated in the 10+1 areas of academic senate purview in Title 5 §53200.[2] This overlap drives student-centered elements of curriculum, degree and certificate requirements, educational program development and maintenance, standards and policies regarding student preparation and success, governance structures, policies for professional development, processes for program review, and processes for institutional planning and budget development. In short, the faculty purview over academic and professional matters governs nearly every element of guided pathways framework design and implementation.

In addition to the clear designation of faculty primacy in Title 5, the authors of Redesigning America’s Community Colleges point out that faculty and staff involvement is essential for success: “To develop and sustain an effective guided pathways model, a college needs a critical mass of faculty and staff excited about the process, ready to collaborate with one another to achieve larger goals, and willing to engage in inquiry, reflection, and ongoing improvement” (144).[3]

Faculty involvement in leadership for design and implementation of guided pathways is both legally mandated and desirable. This position is further supported by ASCCC resolution 17.02 (Fall 2017), which directs that the ASCCC “affirm the right of local academic senates and senate leaders to play central roles in the development of all elements of a guided pathways framework . . . that are relevant to academic and professional matters.”[4]

These various statements all lead to the same conclusion, which has been repeated in multiple venues around the state: the design and implementation of a college’s guided pathways framework must be faculty-driven. While each college will determine its own governance structure in accord with its own mission, values, and culture, the key to a successful framework and implementation is the faculty, who work most closely with students and have the 10+1 responsibilities for student success.

Some colleges may choose to work within existing governance structures with specific tasks assigned to committees, task forces, or ad hoc groups; other colleges may choose to create a separate, but connected, governance structure for guided pathways.  Some of these decisions will be determined by the size of the college: small colleges struggle to populate many additional committees, while larger colleges may find the discrete structure to be less disruptive to existing functions. The following are some points to consider about participatory governance and faculty primacy as each college moves forward.

Guided Pathways Collaborative Teams. A key component of guided pathways is the use of groups that are sometimes referred to as “cross-functional teams” to design, implement, and monitor the framework elements. These teams are designed to include many voices and knit together the overall effort so the results benefit students and maximize the strengths of the college as a whole. The ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force published aGlossary of Terms for guided pathways in which these teams are defined:A Guided Pathways Collaborative Team, occasionally referred to as a Cross-Functional Team, is a group working together to undertake tasks with representatives who provide important skills and perspectives to support the goals of the group.  Examples of collaborative teams include workgroups to design and implement specific aspects of Guided Pathways, such as defining meta-majors or redesigning orientation.”  In addition, permanent shared governance committees, such as the curriculum committee, may also function as collaborative teams.

Local academic senates should appoint qualified, sufficient, and diverse faculty members to these teams so the completed work benefits students and honors the primacy of senate purview in academic and professional matters.  Senates should also monitor activities across the campus to be sure that faculty purview is maintained and that tasks are assigned to appropriate teams.

Faculty leadership roles. Academic senates should establish clear faculty leadership roles within the governance structure for guided pathways. This task can be achieved through the use of existing senate committees and through the creation of guided pathways-specific committees that are chaired or co-chaired by faculty and that include appropriate faculty representation. Elements of the framework plan should be referred to the local senate for review and approval, and the academic senate president has the responsibility of gaining approval from the senate for annual reports before submission to the chancellor’s office.

Liaisons. Most colleges have already appointed a guided pathways faculty liaison whose responsibility includes acting as a conduit between ASCCC and the local senate. Senate meetings and communications might include regular reports from the liaison. Senates may also choose to use their faculty liaison to work with the Chancellor’s Office regional guided pathways coordinators to enhance communication. Academic Senate Presidents can designate their college’s liaison by contacting directoryupdate [at] asccc.org.

Data Analysis. Guided pathways change the milestones that guide our work and help us move students through pathways, and therefore effective design of pathways requires collaborative interpretation and analysis of data. Faculty, being the key providers of contextual data, need to work hand in hand with those involved in developing data to inform design and re-design. Although a college’s research department may have excellent skills in analyzing the numbers, the data is unusable without knowledgeable context and then knowledgeable implementation. The involvement of faculty in the guided pathways metrics, milestones, and data analysis is essential. From the start, as colleges make a case for guided pathways, prioritize issues and barriers for students, or begin student focus groups, faculty must be front and center in this work.

Communication. Since implementing guided pathways frameworks may involve radical change to many functions and departments, communication is key, especially early and complete communication. Informing faculty of what has been decided after the fact is a recipe for disaster; including faculty in the development of proposals and soliciting their input allows them to be a part of the process. The senate can help establish a communication plan that is proactive, includes all stakeholders, leverages governance structures, and places senate leadership and its work for students in the forefront.

Regional Guided Pathways Support. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office established seven regions for the Strong Workforce program, and the regions are now being used for guided pathways with regional coordinators tasked with being “connectors, leaders, trainers, and supporters” for individual colleges. Local senates should be represented in any efforts with the regional coordinator, and senates should maintain vigilance regarding consolidation of efforts with the region.

Leadership partners: Nearly every department and function of a college will be touched by changes required by the guided pathways framework, and many leaders will be involved: faculty, administration, staff, the college’s students, and also students of feeder high schools and pathway universities. The work of guided pathways is the work of faculty, though it is often framed as the work of administrators. Creating a partnership mentality among leaders places an additional responsibility on the communication plan as well as on the overall vision so that stakeholders have a clear view of where this work is taking the college.

Student inclusion. Associated Student Government (ASG) representatives should be members of relevant committees, and the academic senate leadership can advocate for and approve committee lists that include appropriate representation. But the senate can also take an additional step for student success. For the most part, ASG representatives are the students who are successful, engaged, and well informed; committees working on guided pathways also need to hear from unsuccessful, disengaged, and uninformed students because those are the targets for many of the guided pathways initiatives. The academic senate can help identify students whose voices need to be heard and work for their inclusion in the process.

The strategic plan. For most colleges, a multi-year strategic plan is the launching pad for nearly everything that gets done. Such a plan is not only the product of a great deal of work by the entire campus, but it is approved by the governing board, setting an agenda for subsequent years. Placing the tasks for guided pathways in that strategic plan and identifying the champions or responsible people or committees is a key strategy to maintain momentum and to clearly define roles. The constant churn of college leadership can disrupt a plan that exists only in people’s heads or on ad hoc committees. The senate can take a leadership role in urging administration to organize the revision of the existing strategic plan to included guided pathways and support the approval of the governing board.

The ASCCC Guided Pathways Task Force recently surveyed local senate presidents and found that faculty support for college guided pathway redesign is generally high, but there were concerns about getting the work done, including questions of where faculty will we find the time and how pathways will affect curriculum and educational programs. These are questions that should be addressed by faculty in the planning process.

Guided pathways can be designed in 114 ways or more, and that variety is one of the real strengths of the community college system: no templates and no one-size-fits-all approach will work because every college is unique and finds its own path toward excellence. But fundamentals that support student success are the same fundamentals that built this fine system of higher education: faculty, administration, and staff working together. And a key to success is faculty-driven leadership focused on student success.


[2] https://foothill.edu/classified/media/Title5.pdf

[3] Bailey, Thomas R., Shanna Smith Jaggars, and David Jenkins. Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 2015. ] A useful, brief summary of Redesigning is available here:https://www.irsc.edu/uploadedFiles/FacultyStaff/Redesigning-Community-Colleges-For-Student-Success.pdf

[4] https://asccc.org/resolutions/local-academic-senate-role-developing-and…