Seven years ago, Nash Community College in North Carolina realized it had a problem: when they asked local employers what they thought of Nash grads, the responses tended to come with a caveat. The graduates were good at the technical skills associated with their job, but struggled to move out of their comfort zone and demonstrate inquiry, critical thinking, problem-solving, or team work.
We were fortunate to hear from Trent Mohrbutter, Vice President for Instruction and Chief Academic Officer, about how they’ve turned this trend around. In this webinar recording, Mohrbutter explains how a campus wide commitment to improving instruction and developing faculty skills has resulted in better foundational skills for students, increased retention rates, higher graduation numbers, and reports of career success from the companies that hire Nash graduates.
The obstacles to such an initiative were many, ranging from poor faculty skill sets to lack of buy in at all levels. While faculty members were experts in their discipline, very few had ever received intentional training in pedagogy. The Gen Ed Student Learning Outcomes Team (GSLOT) was established to examine the way classes were taught, with an eye toward:
- Content vs. Process
- Teaching & Learning vs. Covering Material
- Content vs. Context
- Developing Engaging Instructional Strategies
With the help of tools like AVID for Higher Education, Nash was able to establish a campus-wide strategy, and install a common language and instructional framework to be used in all classes. Of course this begins in the Gen Ed curriculum, but Nash worked outwards to ensure that these techniques permeated into every classroom. In the slide below you’ll notice that adoption of high-impact best practices has taken root throughout Nash over the past six years.
The results speak for themselves. For example, Mohrbutter referenced Nash’s nursing program, where the retention rate has soared from 45% to over 70% during the course of this initiative. Enrollment and graduation rates are also up (counter to regional trends).
And those local employers who often hire Nash grads? Surveys have dropped the caveats and become much more positive in recent years, describing Nash grads as professional, engaged, and inquisitive.
*Read more about Nash in this Foundational Skills Innovation Spotlight.