Education is constantly evolving to offer students a wide variety of opportunities to earn college credit while still attending high school. In the state of Idaho, the Fast Forward Program provides students attending public schools with access to $4,125.00 to help pay for dual/concurrent enrollment credit, Advanced Placement College Board, and Professional Technical Education exams and excessive course fees. Multiple/concurrent enrollment is a collaborative partnership between higher education and secondary schools to provide college courses to secondary school students. High school instructors are pre-approved by the college/university academic department to deliver college-level courses.
A fundamental component of this partnership is that the dual-taught courses are tightly aligned while still providing academic independence between instructors. From what we’ve learned, this process can be tedious, protracted, and complicated. Therefore, here we offer a successful strategy in navigating the dual credit program.
The Perspective of a College Instructor
Observation. As a dual credit liaison, the college instructor’s role is to reach out to all assigned high school dual credit instructors and assign course observation times, per the terms of the liaison contract. In our attempt to streamline this process, observation times are scheduled on a date that corresponds to the completion of the signature task. For example, one signature task is a presentation of a student’s taught skill. Thus, the high school instructor coordinates an observation time that allows the liaison an opportunity to see the completion of this signature task.
As a conduit, it is critical to ensure the course offering is as similar as possible while maintaining academic autonomy between teachers. Additionally, while liaisons are required to complete evaluations for each dual credit instructor, this role should not be viewed as “employee-employee.” With this in mind, observations have led to productive discussions about how to better align signature assignments and associated grading rubrics. For example, one of the scoring criteria used for the signature assignment was the inclusion and presentation of joint movement and muscle action for the skill. Through observation, we identified a need for students to spend more time identifying and presenting these criteria to the group. Thus, the role of observation proves to be important for enhancing student experience.
Establish Communication Best Practices
When college instructors are approached to become dual credit liaisons, there are several incentives to take on the role. As a dual credit liaison, there are opportunities to establish relationships with high school instructors, recruit students, review and improve courses, etc. However, one of the most important components of a successful dual credit program is establishing best communication practices. In our experience the following practices listed below are important for course alignment.
Face to Face Discussion. In order for both instructors to be on the same page regarding course delivery and content, frequent face-to-face conversations are a must, especially at the time of conception. This required time outside of everyone’s schedule, which was the biggest obstacle. Nonetheless, in a face-to-face meeting, the topics of discussion should include (at a minimum) identifying the main objectives and determining the alignment strategy.
Shared Documents. Documents shared between the two instructors allow for better course alignment. Instructors should take the time to review shared course syllabuses to ensure similarities, particularly in learning outcomes. In addition, signature assignments can and should be used throughout courses as a means of increasing course asymmetry and content review. For example, students in high school and college may be asked to complete a project. Instructions and guidelines given to students, as well as rubrics used by instructors may have the same or at least very similar criteria. We’ve learned to feel comfortable sharing assignments created and in the process have decided to edit and refine assignments for the betterment of students.
The Perspective of a High School Instructor
Observation. Dual credit programs are a great academic opportunity for students because the rigor of multiple credit assignments is invaluable for student learning and in preparing students for post-secondary levels. Dual credit programs are also beneficial for high school instructors. The opportunity for instructors to learn new ideas and share them with like-minded and supportive partners is rewarding and welcomed by both parties. Instructors can improve their teaching practice when they have other colleagues to share ideas and learn from without fear of being judged.
Considerations Before Engaging in the Program. Once the form of communication is established, the classes that will be offered as dual credit need to be identified. By sitting down with faculty liaisons and reviewing common courses, instructors will be able to determine which courses can be offered as dual credit. Finally, identify the main goals of the dual credit program.
Establish Communication Best Practices. It is important for high school and college instructors to make time for regularly scheduled check-ins and team meetings. While face-to-face discussions may be preferable, the use of virtual meeting methods and e-mail is necessary when schedule conflicts and physical distancing are prohibitive. One-on-one visits and observations at the beginning and towards the end of the course are highly recommended to ensure the course starts well and ends on a strong footing. Regular communication helps build and maintain multiple credit relationships.
The team should discuss course objectives, syllabus, overall content, and signature assignments to determine and maintain course alignment. These documents should be in a shared location (such as a Google Drive folder) to help the two instructors collaborate and use a shared signature assignment.
Another important part of communication is sharing best practices to improve student teaching and learning. Teachers learn best from one another. When a college instructor comes in to observe a high school setting, both instructors should take the time to share best practices and be each other’s sounding board on what’s going well and what areas they want to improve. The sharing of best practices for enhancing student learning should be an integral part of any dual credit program.
Strategy for Success
Make Sure Students Are Ready. Helping students understand whether they are really ready for college-level courses is important. This can be achieved by maintaining high expectations for student learning, grading assignments in a timely manner, and providing consistent feedback so students understand if they are meeting expectations.
When students are not ready for the level of college rigor, they need more support than traditional-age students and this requires more time and support on the part of high school instructors to help them succeed. If a student is not ready or willing to work up to college-level expectations, they should be encouraged to cancel the double-credit portion of the course before the penalty-free fall date ends so that their future funding is not jeopardized. In a dual credit physical education course, this means they still complete high school courses but do not earn double credits. They can re-take high school courses with double credits in a different semester and use their previous experience to become more successful and ready for college-level jobs. Most often, younger students are unprepared and teachers must be honest with students about the rigor of the course so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to take double credit. Middle school instructors should consider recommending the course to upperclassmen because of their level of readiness and maturity. Younger students will benefit the most by taking the course first without double credit and then taking it again as a double credit course.
Collaboration. It is important for secondary school instructors to maintain a high level of expectations for courses, especially in physical education settings where course content and calendars may not match those of college level courses due to time constraints and course/teacher availability at the high school level. High school and college instructors should strive to match course content as best they can and achieve planned signature assignments that achieve course goals. Both instructors should go over this at the start and end of each semester to reflect on the data and make adjustments for the following semester.
alignment. The best case scenario is when physical education courses are aligned more like college courses and have the same work for all students, especially the typical double credit assignment. This course is best suited when students don’t have to do “extra” work for double credits. Unfortunately, due to the scheduling and availability of sections, dual credit physical education courses have no prerequisite requirements and are open to all students regardless of their grades, readiness, and desire to take the dual credit course. This makes it challenging for high school instructors to manage the needs of different students (those who are there for multiple credits and a high degree of rigor and those who are not and only want general physical education credits) and adds pressure to administer the course as a whole. This scenario can result in students who are unprepared for the rigors of dual credit work doing poorly in class. A solution here might be to have separate grading expectations on signature assignments for regular education vs dual credit students. This will help introduce students to the concept of dual credit work and still require the same amount of work throughout the course, changing expectations, while still keeping college-level dual credit students with the high standards of double credit work.
share. The good news is the easier you can teach courses. New teachers need more support and check-in because they are overwhelmed and unsure of expectations and how difficult it is to push students for the dual credit course requirement. College instructors should distribute samples and rubrics of student work and discuss grading and grading practices. Sharing sample teaching videos or having a high school instructor observe a college instructor in person or virtually would be invaluable.
Dual credit programs have given students the opportunity to save money and earn college credit. However, there are many considerations before implementation and along the way. When all involved work as a team, relationships are built and education is enhanced.