Guided Pathways

Guided Pathways


These highly structured student experiences encourage completion by:

• Establishing clear roadmaps to students’ end goals that include articulated learning outcomes and direct connections to the requirements for further education and career advancement.

• Incorporating intake processes that help students clarify goals for college and careers.

• Offering on-ramps to programs of study designed to facilitate access for students with
developmental education needs.

• Embedding advising, progress tracking, feedback, and support throughout a student’s educational journey.

What is the Pathways Model?

The Pathways Model is an integrated, institution-wide approach to student success based on
intentionally designed, clear, coherent and structured educational experiences, informed by
available evidence, that guide each student effectively and efficiently from her/his point of entry
through to attainment of high-quality postsecondary credentials and careers with value in the
labor market.

Central to the pathways model are clear, educationally coherent program maps—which include
specific course sequences, progress milestones, and program learning outcomes—that are
aligned to what will be expected of students upon program completion in the workforce and in
education at the next level in a given field. Students are helped from the start to explore
academic and career options, choose a program of study, and develop a plan based on the
program maps. These plans simplify student decision-making, and they enable colleges to
provide predictable schedules, frequent feedback, and targeted support as needed to help
students stay on track and complete their programs more efficiently. They also facilitate efforts
by faculty to ensure that students are building the skills across their programs that they will need
to succeed in employment and further education.

Guided Pathways Essential Practices

The four dimensions of the Pathways Model, together with essential practices under each, are
the following:

1. Clarify paths to student end goals

a) Simplify students’ choices with default program maps developed by faculty and
advisors that show students a clear pathway to completion, further education and
employment in fields of importance to the region.

b) Establish transfer pathways through alignment of pathway courses and expected
learning outcomes with transfer institutions, to optimize applicability of community
college credits to university majors.

2. Help students choose and enter a pathway

a) Bridge K12 to higher education by assuring early remediation in the final year of high
school through the application of courseware technology in strong K12/higher ed
partnerships, such as the TN SAILS model.

b) Redesign traditional remediation as an “on-ramp” to a program of study, which helps
students explore academic and career options from the beginning of their college
experience, aligns math and other foundation skills coursework with a student’s program
of study, and integrates and contextualizes instruction to build academic and nonacademic
foundation skills throughout the college-level curriculum, particularly in
program “gateway” courses.

c) Provide accelerated remediation to students who may need additional support to succeed in college-level courses as soon as possible.

3. Help students stay on path

a) Support students through a strong advising process, embedded and ongoing in the
pathway experience and supported by appropriate technology, to help students make
informed choices, strengthen clarity about transfer and career opportunities at the end of
their chosen college path, ensure they develop an academic plan with predictable
schedules, monitor their progress, and intervene when they go off track.

b) Embed academic and non-academic supports throughout students’ programs to
promote student learning and persistence.

4. Ensure that students are learning

a) Establish program-level learning outcomes aligned with the requirements for success
in employment and further education in a given field and apply the results of learning
outcomes assessment to improve the effectiveness of instruction across programs.

b) Integrate group projects, internships, and other applied learning experiences to
enhance instruction and student success in courses across programs of study.

c) Ensure incorporation of effective teaching practice throughout the pathways.

Essential Capacities for Guided Pathways Reforms

Research and experience in the field indicate that the following capacities are essential for
motivating and supporting higher education institutions and systems to undertake the broadscale
institutional reforms involved in implementing guided pathways effectively and at scale.

Leadership demonstrating skills for managing and sustaining large-scale
transformational change.
• Broad and authentic engagement of college faculty and staff—particularly advisors—in
the design, implementation, evaluation, and ongoing improvement of pathways for
Institutional will and capacity to use data and evidence to design academic and
career pathways, monitor student progress, and implement needed improvements over
Technological tools and infrastructure appropriate to support student progress
through guided pathways.
• Commitment to the level of strategically targeted professional development that will
be required to design and implement pathways at scale.
Policy conditions established at the state, governing board, system, and institutional
level that provide incentives, structures and supports for pathway design and
implementation at scale while removing barriers.
• A continuing action research agenda that examines the efficacy of guided pathways
and develops practical knowledge and tools to support effective implementation at scale.

This overview is excerpted from a longer unpublished document developed by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and the AACC Pathways Project.