Identifies adaptive strategies for the intake, placement, and orientation components of competency-based education that can be adapted to better serve underrepresented and underprepared adult students in college, drawing on recommendations from national experts, policymakers, and practitioners.

“[This paper explores] how [competency-based education] CBE might help more underprepared learners succeed in college by creating a CBE model for developmental education, the remedial instruction required for students with below-college skills in reading, writing, or math. This paper is part of a series recommending specific features likely to help more underprepared students in CBE settings master college-ready skills, persist in their postsecondary studies, and ultimately earn credentials. The brief focuses on the design elements necessary for effective entry. [The authors] examine existing intake, placement, and orientation activities in both CBE and community college programs, and highlight the most promising practices. Fusing the best of both program types, [the authors] build up to a set of concrete recommendations for designing entry to a CBE model shaped specifically for underprepared learners” (p.1).

“CBE models are customized to individual abilities and pace of learning. They measure progress toward a degree by what students demonstrate they know and are able to do, as spelled out in specific competencies, rather than by earning a passing grade at the end of a traditional time-bound course….

This paper focuses on the types of effective intake, placement, and orientation activities that are especially critical for success in CBE programs, both because of the unique delivery model and because students often begin lessons at an individualized starting point. An essential function is to determine what the starting point should be. The more personalized the process, the more effective it is likely to be, because each learner’s skills, interests, habits, and expectations can be considered and used to help them adjust to the program. In developing postsecondary CBE approaches for underprepared learners, our goal is to design intake, placement, and orientation activities that are inclusive and personalized, responsibly measure student skills and needs, and provide crucial guidance and support” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Barriers to Smooth Entry CBE programs may choose to screen out students who are underprepared; however, such a practice fails to serve students who may “benefit from CBE but need additional support or training to realize that potential” (p.4). “High school exit standards for college readiness often do not align with the entry requirements of local colleges for credit-bearing classes that count toward a degree. In addition, different institutions have varying standards for entry into college-level courses” (p.4). Likewise, placement tests and assessments often result in “mis-assignment and under-placement” (p.5). Some recommendations related to intake, placement, and orientation follow: Intake: 1. “Build on the guided pathways approach and use additional elements that take into account diverse student needs and experiences” (p.12). For example, “use intake interview protocols that take into account student academic and career goals, both short term and long term” (p.12). 2. “Organize programs of study into meta-majors that promote entry into a specified program within each student’s first year” (p.12). 3. “Make available a comprehensive set of student support services, including academic and college success courses and non-academic supports as necessary” (p.12). 4. “Use an equity lens to design intake protocols that are culturally and individually sensitive and responsive” (p.12). Placement: 1. “Implement multiple measures of assessment to determine appropriate academic placement with an expanded focus on underprepared adults. Compile student entry portfolios that include data on student work history and experience, high school achievement (whether a diploma, high school equivalency credential, GED, or transcripts), and standardized academic college placement exams” (p.13). 2. “Implement test prep and counseling” (p.13). 3. “Consider guided self-placement or ‘flex’ placement” (p.14). Orientation: 1. “Build a learning community to facilitate peer learning, support, and sense of belonging” (p.14). 2. “Implement mandatory student success courses that build in CBE elements” (p.14). 3. “Assign success coaches and mentors to incoming students….Assign peer mentors, ideally those who have experience in the corequisite model and/or CBE program experience” (p.14). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)