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This is in reply to both Gene Beckett's message and Martha Maxwell's
message and my contribution to the current discussions.
 
I have to agree with much of what Karen Smith said regarding her learning
assistance programs at Rutgers.  At the University of Pittsburgh, the
Learning Skills Center was established 23 years ago to serve anyone in
the University population who could benefit from learning better ways to
learn.  We work with everyone from "special admit" students to medical
school students. We work with second term freshmen who had less than a
2.0 their first term at the University as well as with honor college
students.  The QPA's of the students we serve approach a bell-shaped curve.
The Learning Skills Center was set up to provide academic support
services to the general population because other programs had already
been created, funded by state and national resources, to address the needs
of specific population. I would classify one of these programs as being a
developmental education program because it actually has its own math and
sciences courses, its own advising and counseling system, and its own
admissions process. There is a  separate support service for student
athletes on Pitt's campus. There is a Writing Workshop in the English
Department that provides non-credit help to any student, freshman to
disseration writer, who needs assistance with writing. There are writing and
math placement tests that student's take to place out of required algebra
and writing courses. Since these courses are taught by faculty and
instructors of the English and Math Departments, I have never, and expect will
never, hear them identify themsevles as "developmental educators".  They are
English or Math faculty or instructors. The atmosphere and politics of major
research universities reinforce such titles. The term "developmental
education" is not used on this campus except among those of us who
self-identify professionally with the title developmental educator. I have
at times proposed to academic deans that the required math and writing
course, and perhaps some other entry levelcourses, should make up an academic
department of developmental studies that would consist of hand-picked
faculty who personally are committed to this student population and to
the curriculum and pedagogy that is beneficial to the developmental student.
It has never been entertained. Would the official use of the term
"developmental education" ever fly on this campus? I doubt it. Too many
people, who I would place under the general term of "developmental
educators", have other professional identities that are ingrained.
Oh, by the way, since our Freshman Seminars are taught by faculty from
across the disciplines and by professional staff of the University, I
doubt they would identify as being developmental educators in this role.
Again, their primary identity is elsewhere.
 
That brings me to my second point. No one, more than I, would like to
invent one term that would refer to all of us who are in this profession.
It would have made my life much simplier in the 10+ years that I have
worked on developing professional standards. But I think we have to
admit, that those of us in this profession for the past 20 years, have
made distinctions in the variety of "models" that have evolved. We
recognize a kindred spirit of helping any student become confident and
successful learners. But how we design our programs varies by the
populations we target, by whether we assist through credit-bearing
courses or self-referred non-credit support services, by whether our
institutions classify us as faculty or as staff, by whether the students we
assist are admitted through exceptional means or by regular admissions,
etc.  The beauty and the strength of our profession is that we design
hybrid programs that meet the specific criteria of our students and our
institutions.  Are any of our programs identical? I doubt it. There are
strong similarities but variations on themes and methods and purpose.
 
Whether we admit it or not, we have form subsets of identities that group
us by similarities but our differences have been the problem of finding a
common name we will all subscribe to.  If we do find a term, it cannot be
one that has already existed because it will be almost impossible to shed
the definitions we have assumed about terms used over the past 20 years.
Is it that people don't want to be identified as one common profession. I
don't believe it.  But, people do want to preserve the identity of the
subset to which they have the most in common. Call me a developmental
educator and I'll respond.  Call me a learning assitance professional and
I'll respond. But ask me to choose one title-----for me, in the role of
my program at the University of Pittsburgh, I am a learning assistance
professional.
 
Whoa! Didn't realize I had so much to say, but there it is. Let's keep
this going because this discussion has a lot of implications including
the revision of the standards of our profession.  And, by the way, I do
not believe the answer is to develop separate standards for subsets of
our profession.  THere are too many things we have in common so let's not
divide us.
 
 
Georgine Materniak
University of Pittsburgh
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