Introducing the Senate’s Online Resource List

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Kathy Molloy served as the BSI Regional Workshop Coordinator in 2009.  While she has taught at the high school level and in noncredit ESL and basic skills, most of her 30+ years of teaching experience has been at Santa Barbara City College, where she holds a joint position in English and English Skills and teaches developmental reading and writing courses and college level composition.  She has been involved with high school articulation and teacher training as the Director of Composition and, as SBCC’s Academic Senate President from 2005-07, she led the college wide effort to plan and implement the College’s  Student Success Initiative, now known as the Partnership for Student Success.  As SBCC’s Basic Skills Coordinator, she continues to lead this award-winning program.

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Kathy Molloy, BSI Regional Workshop Coordinator, 2009
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For the past several years, the Statewide Academic Senate has been holding regional workshops for California community college faculty and administrators as part of its overall work with the Basic Skills Initiative.  Using past successful presenters from these BSI regional workshops, the Senate has recently created an Online Resource List (informally known as “Workshops-To-Go”) that allows colleges to create their own cost effective workshops and tailor them to their individual needs. 

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In spring, 2005, I attended my first Statewide Academic Senate Plenary Session as Academic Senate President- Elect at Santa Barbara City College.  Little did I know that one of the most controversial and far-reaching resolutions would finally be voted on at this session.  For four years, a proposal to make math and English requirements for an AA degree consistent throughout the state had been fiercely debated in the Senate.  For many colleges, this would mean that graduation requirements would be raised.  Now it was finally being brought forward for a vote, and I watched in awe as speaker after speaker spoke passionately about how this proposal would affect his or her campus.  Helping students succeed was always at the heart of the debate, yet even representatives from the same campus disagreed on how the proposal would affect their students, most of whom were unprepared to do college-level work when they entered college.  While I knew that the issue was not a simple one, I learned a lot that day.  But I had no idea how committed the Senate would be to ensuring that students succeeded when these higher graduation requirements were approved that day. 
While many community college leaders and groups were involved in the creation of the Basic Skills Initiative (BSI), it’s doubtful that it would have ever become a reality without the strong leadership of the Statewide Academic Senate.  Since the Initiative’s inception in 2006, the Senate has been actively involved in efforts to increase the success of the large numbers of underprepared students entering the California community colleges each year.  In the last two years, a major part of these efforts has involved putting on regional workshops to showcase effective practices that increase the academic success of students with basic skills needs.  In 2008, the Senate held regional workshops throughout the state that were free to participating faculty and administrators.  These workshops provided training for Basic Skills Coordinators and focused on linking student support and instruction, using contextualized learning in Career Technical Education, transitioning students from noncredit to college, and aligning basic skills courses and curriculum.  Acknowledging the important role that adjunct faculty play in teaching basic skills and ESL courses, the Senate also held a three day summer institute for adjunct faculty in these fields to showcase effective classroom practices and strategies. All of these workshops were well attended and provided important teaching tools for those who participated, and most certainly these tools were put to use by those who attended the workshops when they returned to their campuses.  Yet something more was needed to really change the culture on many college campuses that still struggled to meet the needs of their underprepared students.
In early 2009, the Senate appointed me as the BSI Workshop Coordinator and helped me assemble a talented group of faculty from math, English, ESL and CTE, as well as faculty from student and learning support areas.  Hoping to find that missing element, the Workshop Team made changes in the workshop format in an attempt to increase college involvement.  While past workshops had been open to faculty and administrators on all campuses, many colleges sent only one or two participants to the workshops.  The Workshop Team decided to require that participants be part of a college team, in this case a team of faculty and administrators who were interested in working together to implement first year experience, tutoring or cross-curricular programs on their campuses, programs that had proven effective in helping underprepared students achieve academic success.  In spring 2009, three regional workshops on “Creating and Sustaining Effective Basic Skills Programs” were held.  College teams heard presentations on successful programs and then worked with their colleagues and the presenters to draw up plans for implementing one of these programs on their campuses.  Workshop evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, and when Workshop Team members contacted representatives from the attending colleges a few weeks later, nearly all had moved forward with their plans to implement a new program.
Involving college teams in the workshops and giving these teams time to work together and plan new initiatives for their campuses were key elements in increasing the effectiveness of the spring 2009 BSI workshops.  But now another challenge had presented itself: the California budget crisis.  With community colleges facing these harsh fiscal realities, the Workshop Team decided to focus not on programs but on classroom practices, practices that cost little to implement and that made important differences in student success.  A Coordinator Workshop was held in September to bring together all basic skills coordinators from across the state, and the over one hundred coordinators who attended were given an opportunity to work together on a number of important issues, including ways to gain and sustain campus buy-in for basic skills efforts on campus and low-cost ways of maintaining effective programs and practices.  Then four regional workshops on “Maintaining and Enhancing Student Success in Difficult Times: Effective, Sustainable and Low-Cost Classroom Practices” were held in October and November.  Again, colleges were asked to send college teams, but this time five to ten full-time and adjunct faculty from basic skills disciplines and student and learning support areas were requested.   Participants attended interactive presentations on a variety of classroom strategies and created activities they could use in their own classrooms.  They also attended presentations on strategies linking student and learning support and instruction, using contextualized learning in CTE classes and involving adjunct faculty in basic skills efforts on campus.  Later, they spent time with their campus colleagues developing plans for bringing back what they had learned to their own college community.  Once again, the evaluations for all of the fall workshops were extremely positive, and participants clearly saw the benefits of working together with their campus colleagues.
The BSI Regional Workshops have been a tremendous resource to community college faculty and administrators since their inception.  By focusing on college teams in the 2009 Regional BSI Workshops, the Workshop Team and the Senate made these workshops even more effective, providing professional development to groups of faculty and administrators, who could then continue their collaboration on basic skills initiatives when they returned to their home campuses.  Now our challenge is bringing these workshops to an even wider audience at a time when funding for these activities is being curtailed statewide.   An important step in that direction is the newly created Senate Online Resource List.  With many colleges requesting more information about the programs and practices that have been showcased in past BSI Workshops, the Workshop Team contacted past successful presenters and asked them to join the Online Resource List.  These presenters have been chosen because they are knowledgeable, organized, dependable and engaging, and they are available to present on programs or practices that have demonstrated efficacy, portability and sustainability.  Using the Resource List, colleges can now contact any of the presenters and create their own cost-effective workshops, workshops that can be tailored to their individual needs.  Presenters are available in the following areas: Effective Classroom Practices; First Year Experience and Bridge Programs; Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction Programs; Learning Communities; CTE and Contextualized Learning; Linking Student and Learning Support and Instruction; and Assessment.   A complete description of the Resource List, including guidelines, a list of presenters and their backgrounds, program or presentation descriptions, and contact information, can be found at the following link: http://www.cccbsi.org/onlineresources1.   
So much has been accomplished since that first Senate Plenary Session I attended in spring 2005. Community colleges can be justly proud of what they have achieved since the inception of the Basic Skills Initiative.  And in spite of these challenging times, we need to find ways to continue the work that has taken place over the last four years.  While the Senate will continue to focus on ways to increase the success of our underprepared students through its Basic Skills Committee and the numerous conferences it holds each year, we hope that the new Senate Online Resource List will provide colleges with an effective and affordable way to continue the important work that they have begun as they work to ensure the success of their students.