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The following was sent to Gene Beckett as a response to his inquiry to me
as to how the definition of developmental education applied to our
Learning Skills Center program.  Gene has asked that I also put it out
for general discussion.
 
Georgine Materniak
[log in to unmask]
University of Pittsburgh
Learning Skills Center
311 William Pitt Union
Pittsburgh PA 15260
 
 Dear Gene,
 
You asked if there is anything in the definition and goals below that
does not fit my program.  The definition and goals are good and the
majority of it does fit my program because, as I said in my previous
message, all models of whatever our profession should be called should
have a common core.  The definition and goals articulate much of the
common core.
 
As I said, I think at least 90% of it is great.  Here are some specific
comments about the very few things I'd like to see discussed further:
 
From the Definition section:
 
%Although I think I understand what is meant by sub-field,   I suggest
avoiding the use of the prefix "sub" simply because it can imply
something that is less than.. Can another word be substituted such as
field or profession or discipline?
 
% Is developmental psychology the only theoretical base?  I agree that it
is a major theory base but what about cognitive psychology, and human
information processing, and learning theory?  Also see Research in
Developmental Education, vol.10, issue 1, 1992; "A Foundation for
Developmental Education: Three Approaches" by Suella McCrimmon.  Suella
looks at humanism, developmental theory, and behaviorism as three major
theory bases.
 
% I'm not up-to-date on the definition of adult learner.  Are 18 year
olds considered
adult learners?  Developmental theory classifies them as young adults or
late adolescents if my memory from grad school is still intact.  Do not
adult learners have different developmental tasks from the 18 year old?
Perhaps we can refer to all of our students as adult learners; I'm just
raising a question about how the term adult learner is actually defined
and what chronological ages does it address?
 
! How does the definition differ from my program?
 
1. We provide individual and group non-credit workshops and instruction.
We do not offer courses. Courses are the purview of the Math Department
and English Department, although neither refer to the courses as
"developmental" but I would classify them as such.  Our Learning Skills
Center provides all services that directly support students in those math
courses.  The English Department conducts a non-credit writing workshop
that supports all students with writing.
 
2. We do not do course placement, formal advising, or formal counseling.
Placement is the responsibility of specific academic departments.
Students are advised by advisors in the Advising Center or by faculty
when the student has declared a major.  Formal counseling is provided by
the Counseling Center of which we were a component until January of this
year.  Informally, we do some advising and counseling but when the need
of the student requires the expertise of an advisor or counselor, they
are referred.  We have very close and positive working relationships with
these units.
 
From the goals section:
 
% I agree and have no comments on numbers 1, 2, 5, 6, 8.
 
% I have some comments and suggestions on the others:
%Are we ensuring academic success or proper placement? I suggest #3 be
reworded to:
        3. to ensure academic success by assessing each adult learner's
level of        preparedness for college work and by proper placement.
 
%I'm asking all learnasst readers to comment on number 4:
        4. to assist all faculty with the learning needs of their
students (faculty).
 
 We have a similar statement in the CAS Standards and Guidelines for
Learning Assistance Centers that has sparked heated discussions. I am
curious about how all of you feel about goal 4?  So as not to stimulate
preconceived notions, I'm not commenting now on what the controversy is
with this item.  Let's see if it pops up spontaneously.
 
% Number 7 is the only goal that does not fit our program or at least in
how I may be interpreting it.  This does not mean that I do not support
it as an idea.  I think any institution of higher education recognizes
that it has responsibility to contribute to the social and economic
well-being of its community or region through education of the people and
community service.  For example, among the items addressed in the
University of Pittsburgh's Mission Statement are:
        "to offer continuing education programs adapted to the personal
enrichment,     professional upgrading, and career advancement interests
and needs of adult      Pennsylvanians" and "to make available to local
communities and public agencies         the expertise of the University
in ways that are consistent with the primary teaching   and research
functions and contribute to social, intellectual, and economic
development in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world"
 
        However, I cannot not find workforce training as a specific
implementation plan     mentioned in any of our institutional documents.
The Learning Skills Center      specifically is charged with providing
academic support services to University         of Pittsburgh students,
faculty and staff.  I doubt that it would ever be charged to    become
involved in workforce training because that would be seen as the mission
of other institutions in our region.  In our region, we have four
community college       systems: Community College of Allegheny County,
Butler County Community         College, Beaver Valley Community College,
and Westmoreland County         Community College.  These are most likely
the institutions that would provide     workforce training.  When we lost
our steel mills, CCAC received funds to do job  retraining programs
which, I believe, also involved their developmental studies
        units.
 
In summary, Gene, most of the definition and goals are applicable to my
program because they express the common core of our profession.  Where it
doesn't quite fit is where we begin to see differences in the models of
who we are to assist  and how we to provide it.
In fact, there are great similarities between the developmental education
definition and goals and what is expressed in the CAS Standards and
Guidelines for Learning Assistance Programs.  I believe, again, that such
similarities are to be expected because any document that attempts to
explain our profession must acknowledge the core concepts of the
profession. I think that the potential for agreeing what those core
concepts are among the various models of our profession is great.  Where
things get muddled is in the terminology and in acknowledging the major
hybrids or models of our profession.
 
The above is in response to Gene's definition of developmental education.
 
Georgine Materniak
 
Developmental education is a sub-field of higher education having a
theoretical base in developmental psychology.  It promotes the cognitive
and affective growth of all adult learners, at all levels of the learning
continuum. Developmental education is especially sensitive to the
individual differences and special needs of each adult learner.
Developmental education programs and services are structured and commonly
include courses, tutoring, learning laboratories, diagnostic assessment
and placement, and academic advising and personal counseling.
 
What are the goals of developmental education?
 
1. to preserve and make possible educational opportunity for each adult
learner (learner)
 
2. to develop in each adult learner the skills and attitudes necessary
for the attainment of academic, career, and life goals (learner)
 
3. to ensure proper placement and thus academic success by assessing each
adult learner's level of preparedness for college work (learner)
 
4. to assist all faculty with the learning needs of their students (faculty)
 
5. to maintain academic standards by enabling learners to acquire
competencies needed for success in mainstream college courses (faculty)
 
6. to enhance the retention of students (institution)
 
7. to provide work force development programs and services to the
community at large (community)
 
8. to promote the continued development of cognitive and affective
learning theory (field)