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Synchronous or Asynchronous: That is the Question

You survived spring 2020 and are now turning a watchful eye to prepping for fall 2020 online instruction. A question popping up for many instructors is whether to go synchronous or asynchronous with your classes. While some districts have made the choice for you, many others have left it at the discretion of the faculty. For those given a choice, here is some information to help you find the best fit for your class.  

First, let’s start off with a quick definition of what synchronous vs. asynchronous learning is. Pre-COVID-19, this was covered in Title V under 55204 Instructor Contact: 

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Summer Blog Series: Visions of Throughput Part 2: Why Mass-Producing Equity Doesn’t Work

In May 2018, the California legislature, under pressure from Governor Brown and Chancellor Oakley, rushed a performance-based funding scheme into law that dedicates a portion of CCC funding to rewarding or punishing community colleges for their success, or failure, respectively, in meeting throughput targets. As one defender of such funding schemes put it, “The theory of action behind performance funding is simple: financial incentives shape behaviors.” Here the incentivized behavior is the one Chandler describes: raising throughput rates while at the same time lowering cost per unit completion. But if one declines to assume that factories and colleges are interchangeable, one immediately worries that faculty and staff are being incentivized to inflate grades and corrode educational standards. As Nicholas Hillman argues in “Why Performance-Based College Funding Doesn’t Work,” other perverse and unintended incentives may follow.

The extrinsic incentives of performance-based funding, for example, may erode the intrinsic motivations of teachers and students both. It’s difficult to see how there would not be all sorts of bad ethical and educational consequences to shaping the behavior of students so that they approach their education as something best got over with as quickly and cheaply as possible.

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Summer Blog Series: Visions of Throughput, or, the Equity Factory

Equity and Efficiency

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s “Vision for Success” for California Community Colleges represents the most dramatic reform to the CCC system since the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education. To the Master Plan’s emphasis on open access, the Vision adds an ambitious focus on two new goals: achieving equity in completion rates for students from historically underrepresented groups and increasing the efficiency of the CCC system’s production of completions—degrees, certificates, etransfers, and specific, high-demand job skills. This conceptual coupling of equity and efficiency is the Vision’s core premise. It frames inequity in terms of inefficiency and it offers efficiency as the means to achieve equity.

But the Vision never defends or even inquires into this premise. The authors simply assume that the economic means of efficiency will achieve the political end of equity, and everything in the Vision follows from this. And so this assumption deserves critical scrutiny. In making it, the authors of the Vision, without acknowledging it, draw on core tenets of neoliberal ideology: that the public sector should model itself on the private sector, and so that political and social goods are best pursued by applying the economic laws, so-called, of the competitive marketplace. If we want equity, we should seek to produce it as if it were a good being produced for the market: with maximal efficiency, and the highest possible return on investment.

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Introducing the Pedagogy of Social Justice

This past spring, California community college faculty convened at Contra Costa College to discuss the “Pedagogy of Social Justice.” The conference featured workshops for advancing social justice in California community college instruction.  Diablo Valley College (DVC) professors of sociology and political science spearheaded one such workshop, urging faculty to consider “transformative possibilities” for themselves and their students. Sociologist Sanga Niyogi and political scientist Albert Ponce explained that “the goal of Social Justice pedagogy is to develop consciousness of injustices while empowering students with the tools to work towards justice.”

The conferences came on the heels of a concerted effort to integrate social justice into the educational aims of Contra Costa community colleges. For example, DVC approved a three-tier curriculum for a social justice program in conjunction with Rainbow Youth wherein community leaders attend as guest speakers and students report on observations of campus learning communities as well as perform fifteen to twenty hours of service for a community agency. During the 2019-20 academic year, DVC will also offer “Introduction to Social Justice,” engaging with a spectrum of “intersections” between gender and sexuality, racial injustice, art, music, history, and equity. For Janice Townsend, who helped craft the Los Medanos College social justice proposal, “Social Justice is about making the world a better place, it’s about empowerment, not just about the history of yourself. It connects you to others, affinity of the things we all differ, and share in common, as humans.”

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