Changing Trends for
Administrative Location of Developmental Educators within an
Institution: A Pilot Study of NADE Members
Faculty Advisor for Outreach
Significant changes are occurring in higher education regarding restructuring of postsecondary institutions. Institutions are adopting business models. This is prompting institutions, especially public 4-year colleges and universities, to reevaluate their missions and, often, narrow their focus and concentrate resources in their strongest and most highly valued programs (Bastedo & Gumport, 2003). These dramatic changes occur simultaneously with heightened scrutiny of developmental education programs (Jehangir, 2002).
As a former national executive board member of the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE), I have monitored the shifts in membership of the professional association. Previously, the membership was equally divided between 2- and 4-year institutions. Now it is heavily shifted towards membership of educators from 2-year colleges. I was curious to investigate whether there had been a shift of where on campus these NADE members were located. Previous national research from the Exxon Study of Developmental Education indicated that student achievement outcomes from developmental education programs were higher if the programs were centrally administered and located within the campus (Boylan, 2002).
NADE provided me with a frequency distribution of the most common names of the campus administrative units where mail is sent to association members. About 2,700 records were analyzed. Approximately one-fourth of the records were discarded since it appeared that they were addressed to the person’s home address. The following are the top 10 departmental names, arranged from most frequent to least frequent:
- developmental education
- mathematics (regular department)
- English (regular department)
- developmental subject unit (math, reading, and writing)
- humanities (regular department)
- academic support
- learning center
- learning assistance
- student success center
- student support
A couple of interesting observations can be made. Not surprisingly, the most common name of the departmental unit for NADE members is developmental education. The surprise was observing that the regular academic departments of mathematics, English, and humanities occur with such a high frequency. Boylan (2002) indicated that some shifting away from centralized developmental education units may be occurring. This preliminary study seems to confirm that among the top 10 departmental names where NADE members receive their mail, only two have the words “developmental education” explicitly listed in their titles. It appears that centralized developmental education administrative units are becoming rare.
Further investigation is warranted. Some possible directions could be a more careful analysis of the original data set. Similar studies could be conducted with other professional associations in the field (e.g., College Reading and Learning Association, National College Learning Center Association). Follow-up interviews with a stratified sample of members could probe for the historic choices made concerning departmental names and whether changes have occurred in the intervening years. In any case, it appears that there is a shift in the administrative location of NADE members in comparison with past years. The meaning of these changes needs to be better understood and the potential impact upon the field of practice.
Bastedo, M. N., & Gumport, P. J. (2003). Access to what? Mission differentiation and academic stratification in U.S. public higher education. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 46(3), 341-359.
Boylan, H. R. (2002). What works: Research-based best practices in developmental education, Boone, NC: Continuous Quality Improvement Network with the National Center for Developmental Education, Appalachian State University.
Jehangir, R. R. (2002). Higher education for whom? The battle to include developmental education at the four-year university. In J. L. Higbee, D. B. Lundell, & I. M. Duranczyk (Eds.). Developmental education: Policy and practice (pp. 17-34). Auburn, GA: National Association for Developmental Education.