Accelerating Design: Guided Pathways Implementation Picks Up the Pace

As the Guided Pathways implementation process enters its second year, community colleges across California are joining together for a series of regional workshops aimed at supporting and improving the Guided Pathways design and adoption process.

According to Chase Fischerhall, director of the Career Ladders Project, “Our hope is to create a space where design teams, no matter where they are on the Guided Pathways scale of adoption can come together, share best practices, learn new strategies, collaborate, and create action plans that they can immediately start implementing at their home institutions.”

The first of these workshops, Accelerating Guided Pathways Design, was held September 10 in San Jose, and welcomed more than 150 attendees from 13 Bay Area community colleges. Breakout sessions covered such topics as data literacy, building effective Guided Pathways design teams, and the development of meta-majors.

Workshops over the next year will address subjects that colleges themselves have indicated are their key areas of focus: data inquiry and coaching; the integration of GP design teams and shared governance structures; and the implications of meta-majors for students and faculty.

While the schedule is set, Fischerhall emphasized that their approach remains fluid and responsive to regional developments. “Our goal is to meet schools where they are in the process and provide the support they need. This means our workshop topics are evolving in real-time with colleges’ needs.

“We’re constantly collecting data and using that feedback to make sure we are supporting colleges in the areas they need it most.”

In order to make sure attendees get the most out of the day, design teams “self-select” which sessions they want to attend and who will attend them based on their own expertise and needs. Teams can send representatives to each session, or they can all attend one session—the point is for them to pursue the information that will be most helpful to them.

At the end of the day, attendees are given time to share what they’ve learned with their own design teams and encouraged to create action plans to implement or apply the lessons they’ve learned.

One significant hallmark of these workshops is that each session is led in part by a regional community college design team whose own implementation experiences provide frontline context for the challenges and opportunities facing other local teams.

“California is extremely diverse in terms of the places and populations that its community colleges serve,” said Fischerhall. “Specific regional economies, demographics, and geographical characteristics play a large part in determining what kinds of approaches to Guided Pathways implementation are successful.”

For example, urban regions like Los Angeles and San Francisco tend to have a lot of colleges in a small area, with students often moving between them. Whereas colleges in the Far North or Central Valley can service areas spanning a hundred or more miles. These differences have a significant impact on allocations, resources, and GP implementation as a whole.

“It’s important to understand that this is not a one-size-fits all framework and that what works for one school may not work for another,” said Fischerhall. “Rural, suburban, and urban schools all face different challenges and our workshops are designed to honor and address those differences and challenges so that they can build our their regions in the most dynamic ways possible.”

Over the next year, the Chancellor’s Office will host similarly designed Guided Pathways workshops in each of its regions, all intended to give attendees an opportunity to learn about effective regional and statewide Guided Pathways strategies, how to apply those strategies in their own college’s context, and how to gain additional support.

The next two workshop will be held on November 27, in the Los Angeles/Orange County region.

For more information about these upcoming workshops and more, visit

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April 23, 2019

Regional coordinators throughout the state provide local support for colleges and districts in their Guided Pathways implementation. Eighteen regional coordinators, divided into seven regions, help foster regional collaboration and serve […]