This report is a result of a focus group conducted during November 2001 as part of a Vocational Training and Education grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. The purpose of the focus group was to brainstorm ideas, recommendations and activities used by the participants: instructors, administrators and staff who are part of special populations programs at community colleges and/or other educational organizations.
The goal was to identify and describe effective ways for Business Education programs to facilitate the success of students from special populations. Special populations were defined as individuals with disabilities, individuals from economically disadvantaged families, individuals preparing for nontraditional training and employment, single parents, including single pregnant women, displaced homemakers, and individuals with other barriers to educational achievement, including individuals with limited-English proficiency.
The recommendations are in priority order with the top or most important methods listed first. The last group of recommendations were provided in response to specific barriers identified by the focus group.
Set up an environment acknowledging that all individuals have barriers to success - discuss openly and honestly
Address Discrimination Issues Openly
Discuss issues about prejudice and student’s difficulties openly in small class settings.
Assign Teams for Exposure to Culturally Diverse People
Assign students to diverse student/instructor teams for integration and cross experience teachings.
Match, voluntarily, students who are doing well academically with students who are struggling. This reinforces learning for both the student and the volunteer tutor.
Design and Conduct Study Groups
Use concepts of peer tutoring and cultural diversity in study group and/or focus group design.
Simplify Texts, Produce in Large Print and Other Languages
Simplified notes and texts as well as alternate formats will encourage special populations to learn independently and foster a supportive environment.
Identify Problems Up-Front
Instead of waiting until problems are overwhelming for students, identify even possible problems quickly and address up-front before they become a major barrier and perhaps cause the student to drop-out.
Provide a One Day Orientation and Two Weeks of Pre-Training
Bring special population students on-campus early, two weeks before regular semester begins. Work on basic skills: computer, math, keyboarding, English, studying. Include Life Skills as well, which can ease the new students into a routine at school.
Provide Goal Setting for Students
Assist students in identifying small, readily achievable goals and timelines throughout the semester.
Enhance Instructor Accessibility
Instructors can provide students their e-mail, cell and home numbers, if appropriate, for accessibility at off hours and for the convenience of students. Spend one-to-one time with students, which can enhance student’s self confidence as well as providing valuable and relevant teaching opportunities. This also promotes student/instructor bonding.
Use Teamwork and Cooperative Learning Principles in Classes
Encourage Two-way Communication including Board Work
Emphasis on students doing board work increases their confidence and allows them to view others and the learning process, including mistakes.
Have Resources Available On-Site
Provide program counselors and other services on campus during evening as well as daytime hours. Consider on-line counseling.
Request Students do a “Week in a Nutshell” report
Counselors read and respond to student’s needs as written in their weekly reports/journals.
Be Creative and Inventive with Making School Accessible
Examples: Purchase magnifiers for students with visual impairments if large print is not available. Encourage modifications to exceed building codes such as ramp inclination decrease.
Model a Caring and Positive Attitude
Reinforce the student’s self-confidence as well as remove any emphasis on negativity. Instructors should be available to students on an on-going basis to create a supportive environment.
Use Multi-media Interactive CD’s
Allows students to work at their own pace, repeating if necessary. Hands-on, visual and voice are included for greater learning and retention.
Conduct Regular Meetings with Student Representatives and Faculty
Communicate student status, identify problems early, solicit support and resources.
Create a Supportive Program which Feels like Community
Teamwork provides a feeling of support and creates a sense of community.
Improve Communications Between Students including Creating Clubs
Include a Program Alumni Club for mentoring and supporting new students. This also creates leadership opportunities for alumni.
Invite Successful Students to Return and Relay Stories to Current Students
Use Role Models
Teach by Using Disability and Special Population Examples
Creates empathy, avoids discrimination, and sets the tone for the class in addition to providing valuable and relevant teaching opportunities.
Integrate into the Entire Campus the Stand Alone Programs for Special Populations
Promotes integration, diversity and inclusion
RECOMMENDATIONS GIVEN IN RESPONSE TO IDENTIFIED BARRIERS
Car or Van Pooling
Shuttle within parking lots
Bus passes (subsidized by grant funding)
Student body funding for transportation
Information and Resource experts to assist students with options
Provide list of off-campus transportation resources such as: taxi, shuttle, bus, Para transit and trolley
Peer or Faculty Support
Instructors can make themselves more accessible to students
Offer personal support counseling in addition to academic counseling
Instructors need to encourage student’s communication with faculty and others
Create instructional flexibility (home study, distance learning)
Provide a mandatory orientation for new students
Encourage freshmen to join clubs
Create or distribute resource booklets of community services
Create a class networking sheet for students to be able to share job search and other possibilities with each other
Get the entire campus involved
Distribute list of resources including sick child and after hour care (the list may be available from the college’s child development department)
Develop web page and/or handouts regarding resources
Conduct Professional Development seminars for instructors on special populations
Provide Math and English assessments for all new students in order to identify possible problems upfront
Develop a questionnaire and/or test for previously undiagnosed disabilities
Provide assessments in a timely manner (prior to classes beginning)
Social Skills for Students
Add social skills curriculum to life skills and personal development classes
Encourage counselors to get students into life skills classes
Increase the availability of life skills and personal development classes on campus
Focus Group Participants:
Project Director: Stan Schroeder - Grossmont College/LEDI
Marilyn Forstot - Grossmont College/OPT
Malissa Kemp - Grossmont College/LEDI
Dr. Mary Leslie - Grossmont College/OPT/BOT
Andy Peifer – East County Career Center
Jackie Richards – Grossmont College/OPT
Debbi Smith – Grossmont College/ECCC Computer Lab
Mike Weinberg – Grossmont College/LEDI
Focus Group Leaders:
Susan Madison, Consultant
Peter Mirche, Grossmont College Instructor
Developed and published under contract 01-0003-001 with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, State of California. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this work, in whole or part, for classroom or curriculum use only. This work is exclusively the product of the Statewide Special Project Collaborative in Business Education operated by Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and does not necessarily reflect the policy of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges. This project is being implemented in association with the Business Education Statewide Advisory Committee.