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May-June 2011

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In Search of a New Developmental-Education Pedagogy

Nationwide, pass rates of developmental education students barely reach 60 percent, cutting short the promise of higher education for too many students. We believe that a national pass rate of 80 percent or better is possible; indeed, it is a national imperative. In this article, we describe an ongoing project that aims to understand and radically improve the teaching of developmental education, particularly on community college campuses. It asks, what happens in the classrooms of some faculty whose students succeed at a rate consistently higher than the students taught by their colleagues at the same school?

The project, Global Skills for College Completion (GSCC), is funded through a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant awarded to the League for Innovation, in partnership with LaGuardia Community College and Knowledge in the Public Interest. It taps the wisdom of frontline faculty and the power of social media to create something new: a field-tested pedagogy of developmental education. GSCC's research design draws upon the conversational framework of Diana Laurillard. It is one of the few projects to place faculty and pedagogy at its center and to be both evidence based and theory driven.

Gail O. Mellow ( is president of LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York, one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the US; it serves over 50,000 students, two-thirds of whom are New Americans. It is a leader in using e-portfolios for teaching and assessment.

Diana D. Woolis ( is the founding partner of Knowledge in the Public Interest (KPI), a pioneer in using web–based collaboration to accelerate learning and integrate professional development, practice, and research.

Diana Laurillard ( holds the Chair of Learning with Digital Technologies at the Institute of Education, University of London, one of the world's premier schools of education. Her work focuses on bridging the gap between teaching and research and the development of interactive learning design tools for faculty.

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