Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I’m thinking that the low-hanging fruit here may be the system-level encouragement -- with funding -- of fairly robust articulation agreements. Address the issue of departmental self-interest with incentives, issue a standard reporting form, and call it good. Otherwise, I see levels of open warfare the costs of which would overwhelm any savings.
I don't like your example of a 200-level psych class typically taught to freshmen, because rejecting that means you are not accepting the student at "junior-level" standing. To me, "junior" means admitted to upper division in a specific major. They should be limited to, at most, requiring one or two special classes that can be taken in the same semester as a probationary admit to the major just as they would their own student who changed majors late in the sophomore year.
The engineering example in the comment above is one of the sticky ones. Many STEM majors have similar issues. Our fully-prepared students transfer with about 2.5 years of work left, but it might take 3 because of course scheduling. (And it usually took 2.5 to 3 years to reach that level of preparation. Those who don't stick around to reach that level usually end up with an extra year of higher-tuition taking CC-level classes.) A well-prepared freshman entering the university CAN reach that same point after three semesters, but they don't seem to be the majority from what my students tell me.
I see enough reverse transfers to know that plenty of their freshmen don't get fully into the major until their junior year and often change majors because they are so far behind. Sadly, no one suggests that they take a semester or two "off" between their 2nd and 3rd year to get caught up at a CC. We only get the ones that have actually flunked out and need an AA degree to restart the clock somewhere else.
Articulation agreements have to dig into the details of comparing syllabi. And it has to be faculty doing the comparing, because only faculty will know that a student with experience in Basketweaving Technique A is most likely not ready for a 200-level course in Basketweaving Technique B - at the institutional level, basketweaving just looks like basketweaving.
From my perspective as math faculty at a local SLAC, it is great -- I know exactly what is covered in Math 123, regardless of which CC or 4-year school it was taught at.
I'm not sure how the system deals with one-off courses, or variations on "Anthro 100".
I'd be curious to know what went in to the creation of the system, and how it works outside math and the sciences.
And how might we adjust?
I have had a similar experience to yours with students from a nearby R1 university that take classes at my CC. I have to assume that they met the original admission standards of that school, but otherwise there is no way to know if they were passed along by a marginal adjunct keeping high "success" numbers or a new Asst Prof more interested in doing research and getting good evaluations than student learning, or if all intro classes there are now really easy to pass.
Going the other way, I have confidence in my own students but have no control over what rates a pass in someone else's class, but I also know that some very good students of mine will not do well in an anonymous 200 student lecture.
I know one university (not part of our state-wide articulation agreement) that accepts some classes from our CC but not others. [I happen to agree with their assessment.] I am also told that they don't accept any from some other schools and are similarly selective about classes at some universities. This is based on the track record of students, not just syllabi, so it can be done. The challenge is how to decide if a student who appears ignorant is one who was actually really good but drank and partied every day after leaving home, is an anomaly because one section out of four was taught by an instructor who was later fired, or reflects a pattern at that school.
On the other hand, if the course is something like Intro to Anthropology well, really, who cares? Speaking as someone with a PhD in a related field, Intro to Anthro is very close to a content-free course, for the most part, designed to stimulate student interest but hardly anything unique to a given program. I have taught such courses, and I can certify that student retention of information is close to nil once the course is over. I am sure the same is true for lower-level history, English, etc. Such courses could be different, but basically they aren't.