Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Defining College Prep - Part 1

Over the last several months I've been giving considerable thought to the term "college prep." Those of us in this particular area of education often throw the phrase around without really thinking about what "college prep" even means. As I pondered this phrase, I realized that perhaps the college experience for which we (collective "we," not just my school "we") have been prepping our kids may be the experience we had in college and not actually what our students will facing in the next few years. You can see the conundrum already... How do we prepare our students for a college experience which has not yet arrived, especially considering the speed at which the world is changing? After all, how can we be "college prep" if we don't have a clear understanding of what "college" looks like now (as opposed to what it looked like five, ten, fifteen years ago)? Rather than try only to predict the future of college education, I decided to gather some data about the current college experience.

When trying to look ahead to what the college experience would be like in the next several years, I figured the best place to start would be to look at what's happening right now in college classrooms. Therefore, I summoned our alumni coordinator and set out to organize our first-ever Alumni Summit. The goal of the Alumni Summit would be to get an accurate snapshot of some college classrooms in 2011. As she sent out invitations I went to work on questions. Fast forward several weeks to the week after most colleges and universities dismissed for the summer and we were ready for the Summit.

For the Summit two dozen alum came to campus to join me for a round table discussion of what college looks like right now based on their experiences in the 2010-11 school year. The group represented colleges and universities from across the nation including Baylor University, West Point, Wheaton College, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Stanford, Middlebury College, and more. The alum represented disciplines including business, marketing, chemistry, engineering, philosophy, education, journalism and economics, to name a few.

After almost two hours of round-table Q&A with plenty of back and forth conversation, something became very clear. Regardless of the school, regardless of the course of study, the alum presented three themes, three points of emphasis, three common threads that seemed to run through all institutions and disciplines represented. What are they seeing right now, over and over, in college classrooms? Professors and instructors are expecting and requiring:
  • Collaboration for the purpose of solving problems
  • Reading, writing, discussion
  • Clear, concise, fact-based oral communication
In my next few posts I'll break each of these down and share the details, based on the testimonials of our alum, that support these points.

1 comment:

Staci Brown said...

I look forward to see the break down of the results of the forum. I think it will have a big influence on what I do in the classroom next year.