Palm Beach State College’s alternative scheduling/combined courses curriculum model is a finalist for a national 2015 Bellwether Award.
The college is one of 10 finalists in the Instructional Programs and Services category, co-sponsored by the National Council of Instructional Administrators, which highlights programs or activities designed and successfully implemented to support teaching and learning in community and state colleges.
The college will participate in the final phase of the competition at the Community College Futures Assembly Jan. 24-27 in Orlando. A panel of national experts will select one winner announced on Jan. 27.
The alternative scheduling/combined courses curriculum model has helped to improve low pass rates and shorten the time it takes for students to complete college preparatory course work.
During the initial pilot, the model combined prep and intermediate algebra courses, allowing students to complete both courses in a single semester. It required students to attend class four days a week and complete assigned homework virtually every day. During the first eight weeks, they took introductory algebra. During the second eight weeks, they moved as a cohort to intermediate algebra, which was offered during the same class period, in the same classroom and taught by the same professor.
The combined courses became known as “combo classes” and resulted in success rates of up to 80 percent, approximately 30 percent higher than the state and national average.
“Combo classes have been a natural fit for the changing learning styles of students observed over the past decade,” said Gail Burkett, associate professor of algebra. “Older students are still accustomed to lecture but react very favorably to the cohorts and engagement that results in these sections. Younger students thrive on the interaction and collaboration.”
PBSC also implemented “combo classes” in four levels of math, both prep and credit, as well as reading and English.
Other finalists in the Instructional Programs & Services category are: Chipola College, Fla.; Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio; Maricopa County Community College District, Ariz.; Norco College, Calif.; Sinclair Community College, Ohio; South Mountain Community College, Ariz.; the Community College of Baltimore County, Md.; Walla Walla Community College, Wash.; and Wallace Community College in Dothan, Ala.
The Community College Futures Assembly convenes annually to serve as a think tank in identifying critical issues facing the future of community and state colleges, and to recognize Bellwether finalist colleges as trend-setting institutions.
Serving 48,000 students annually, PBSC is the largest institution of higher education in Palm Beach County. For more info., visit www.palmbeachstate.edu.