Innovation Anchored in Tradition:
Action Research @ Glendale Community College

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Michael Dulay

Proposal and Field of Action

The largest system of public higher education in the United States is the California Community College system.  Its enrollment is approximately 1.5 million, which is twice the combined enrollment of the UC and CSU systems.  Among this massive system of 107 colleges is Glendale Community College (GCC).  GCC was founded 77 years ago, and it has since grown exponentially.  To help function in accordance with its mission, the college employs over 600 faculty and 900 support staff members.  The 53 acre, 19 building college has an annual enrollment of 25,000 wonderfully diverse students coming from within and around the college’s district.  These students are older (i.e., the median age is 28; the mean is 24) and have enrollment patterns that are non-traditional (i.e., 1/3 are day students, 1/3 are evening students, and the remaining 1/3 enroll in both day and night programs). Moreover, 71% of the students are enrolled part-time, and many have obligations that supercede school. For example, 69% are employed (with 46% working 20+ hours per week), and 24% have dependent children.  The ethnic composition of the student body reflects that of northern Los Angeles.  No one group forms a discernable majority, instead there appears to be a relatively even representation of European Caucasian, Middle Eastern Caucasian, Latino, and Asian students.  To add the the richness of student diversity, research shows that 64% of the student body is foreign-born, and 29% spoke English as their first language. Hence, the field of action is beautifully complex, and the current project will take this into account.

The Department of Psychology enrolls approximately 2500 students annually, and it’s entry-level general education course (PSY101) is one of the most sought after courses offered at GCC.  As one of four full-time faculty members in this department, I helped phase out our telecourse program in psychology. My goal was to design a more effective means of serving those students who could not be on campus as often as the curriculum demands.  Our division and department did not see on-line courses as sufficiently rigorous, and we agreed that a hybrid (i.e., “dual platform” or “blended” courses that meet half of the time on-line) model would best serve the needs of our program.  I was entrusted with this duty, and I designed an apparently unbearable course for the typical community college student.  My first offering of this course began with over 50 students, but within a matter of weeks I was left with 12 students.  I made concessions midway through the course, and it ended with 10.  Although I have tried varying the assignments, class location (e.g., lecture hall, computer lab, and collaborative learning room), and mode of presentation (e.g., lecture, discussion/seminar, or collaborative learning), my rates of retention have remained dismal in the PSY101 Hybrid course.

Hence, the problem that I would like to address with my ARP is attrition in my PSY101 Hybrid course.  Many of my colleagues attributed my attrition to my intent on “maintaining standards”, and many commended me for this.  After 5 terms of failing to have meaningful success in my rendition for a hybrid college-level course, I decided to head back to school.  Not only was I disgusted with my course's ability to reach only those students who would succeed in any class (i.e., the 10 or less who remained were typically “A” and “B” students), I was intrigued by the interaction between my classes and the technology used to mediate them.  My problem, then, was actually an invitation to grow.  With that in mind, I advanced the following research questions:

1. How can I best use on-line learning technology to decrease attrition in my PSY101 Hybrid course?

2. What aspects of my own praxis are best suited for teaching in a hybrid course?

In time, I posited other questions:

3. How can I best use constructivist principles to fold wiki technology into my PSY 101 so that it encourages active participation?

4. How can I best share my experiences with the college community around me?


Glendale Community College - 1500 N. Verdugo Road - Glendale, CA 91208

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