An accelerated one-semester reading and writing course helped remedial students succeed at California’s Chabot College, concludes a Community College Research Center study. Compared to students in the two-semester course, fast-tracked students were more likely to complete college English, earn a certificate or degree and transfer to a four-year college or university. They accumulated more credits and earned higher grades.
“I like the one-semester idea,” said an adjunct who’d taught both versions of the course. “I think when you give them two full semesters, you give them that much longer to find a reason to leave.”
However, some instructors believed weaker, less confident students, especially immigrants still learning English, needed more time in developmental English. One veteran teacher said:
Maybe ESL students do need to be taking it a little bit slower because they are not just acquiring cognitive and academic skills. What they are acquiring are language skills. … And you can accelerate your progress to some degree, but a certain amount of that is just going to be time.
Chabot’s English department rejected “remedial pedagogy” — drill and practice on subskills — years ago, the researchers write. Assignments in developmental English are designed to mirror tasks students will be expected to perform in college-level English, but with “lower levels of complexity and more scaffolding.”
Several instructors said the accelerated course helped students by more closely resembling the expectations in college-level courses. Fast-tracking gives students “that college feeling,” said a faculty member who teaches both developmental and college-level English courses.
While fast-tracking remedial English had “greater benefits for students with higher English and reading placement scores,” lower-skilled students weren’t harmed, the study found.