Two Simultaneous Conversations in Education – Part I – The Completion Conversation

There are two simultaneous conversations that have a direct impact on community colleges: College Completion, and General Education. These two topics are often discussed under the general area of College Pathways, the latest in a series of reforms aimed at improving college completion for community college students.

In two recent articles, the cross-over relationship between college completion and general (aka liberal) education begin to emerge. The first article is discussed here in Part I. A discussion about the second article will be shared in Part II.

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The League for Innovation in the Community College published a Learning Abstract titled “Community College Voices in the National Completion Conversation” that shared the compilation of a discussion during a session at one of their Learning Summits in order to bring faculty to the national conversation. They posed what seemed like a simple question:

What does completion mean to you?

This lead to a discussion not unlike those that have occurred at Mott Community College, and many other community colleges across the nation. And the results were just as diverse but fell into two themes:

1) Students fulfilling their own goals.

2) Students earning credentials.

For the first major theme above, the goals could be broken down into smaller increments such as “students accomplish what they came to do” or even “good grades” or “success at each increment.” The second major theme was more direct referencing the certificate, degree or transfer, but also mentioned issues related to employment and “workforce preparedness”.

Some members of the group addressed a third category labeled “Other Approaches” which looked at completion from the perspective of different stakeholders.

Another question that was posed included:

What Issues and Concerns to you have about the completion agenda?

The themes that resulted from the conversation on this question were:

1) Academic Rigor and Relevance.

2) Student Support.

3) Student Preparedness.

4) Student Funding.

5) Institutional Funding.

6) Employability.

7) Driving the Agenda.

8) Defining Terms.

9) Completion Goals.

10) Data.


11) College Challenges

The themes, as you might expect, address a variety of sometimes contentious issues with the element of “definition” being a recurring underlying theme. For instance, there was concern about the inconsistency of who defines completion, especially when different stakeholders and external organizations impact the conversation.

When the question changed to one about promise, a stronger consensus emerged.

What promise do you see in the national focus on completion?

A sub-question that followed was: “Why are we doing this if there are no promises?” The resulting conversation seemed more positive.

1) The national conversation.

2) Collaboration.

3) Retention.

4) Benefits for Students.

5) Benefits for Community.

6) Benefits for the College.

What are the big questions you have regarding student success and completion?

The participants were asked to come up with their own “Big Questions” which then were grouped into five categories:

1) The definition of completion.

2) Engaging and Supporting students to completion and careers.

3) Employability and a Living Wage.

4) Joining the conversation.

5) College needs.

To read about these themes and the conversations and questions that swirled within them, see the full article at the League for Innovations website at this link.