Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Developmental educators and administrators must increase awareness of their policies and practices, says Vilma Mesa


At the Reimagining Developmental Education conference in Manhattan, higher education professionals discussed the progress and the future of developmental education reform. About 70 percent of American undergraduate college students are advised to take developmental coursework in reading, writing, or math before enrolling in college credit bearing courses. Research shows that these students tend to make slower progress toward a degree—and they are less likely to persist in their college careers. Inside Higher Education covered the conference in the article “Measuring Progress on Developmental Education.”

Among the conference presenters was Professor Vilma Mesa. She took part in a panel on the pedagogy of developmental education. In her research, she found that the language to describe quality instruction in developmental education does not exist. Mesa and co-presenters Gwenn Eldridge (assistant vice president of academic transitions and support at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana) and Emily Lardner (interim vice president for academic affairs at Highline College in Washington) discussed the tension between a college educator’s academic freedom and their knowledge of evidence-based pedagogy, which is a challenge that needs to be overcome. This tension is connected to an educator’s awareness of their privilege and the ways in which they incorporate this awareness into the classroom. Five years ago, this discussion wouldn’t have happened, Mesa said. “With all due respect, you guys are coming really late to this conversation,” she said. “So welcome.”

The people of color who were doing this work before need allies, Mesa added. They need people in academia to understand their moral responsibility “for what we’ve been doing with blinders on.” Those in higher education, she said, need to be asking the hard questions about who is winning and losing when institutions and faculty adopt certain policies or teach in certain ways.

Vilma Mesa is Professor

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