Faculty member with students


Guided Pathways at COD

Over the past several years, the concept of guided pathways has spread rapidly through community colleges and four-year institutions in many states and districts. The guided pathways model is based on coherent and easy-to-follow college-level programs of study that are aligned with requirements for success in employment and at the next stage of education. Programs, support services, and instructional approaches are redesigned and re-aligned to helps students to clarify their goals, choose and enter pathways that will achieve those goals, stay on those pathways, and master knowledge and skills that will enable them to advance in the labor market and successfully pursue further education. 

The Guided Pathways Model is Built Upon Three Important Design Principles

  • First, colleges program redesigns must pay attention to the entire student experience, rather than to just one segment of it (such as developmental education or the intake process).
  • Second, a guided pathways redesign is not the next in a long line of discrete reforms, but rather a framework or general model that helps unify a variety of reform elements around the central goal of helping students choose, enter, and complete a program of study aligned with students’ goals for employment and further education.
  • Third, the redesign process starts with student end goals for careers and further education in mind and “backward maps” programs and supports to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in employment and education at the next level.

Although the elements on which it is based are rooted in research, the overall guided pathways model is still relatively new and has not been fully tested. Very encouraging preliminary evidence has emerged from institutions that have implemented guided pathways practices at scale, including Florida State University and Georgia State University, among four-year institutions, and the City Colleges of Chicago and CUNY’s Guttman College, among community colleges. Large scale efforts are now ongoing to implement guided pathways at two- and four-year institutions in Tennessee, Indiana, and Georgia, and at community colleges in Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Washington State. This work will, in a number of locations, be strongly connected to the AACC Pathways Project. 

This brief history is excerpted from a longer unpublished document developed by the Community College Research Center, with contributions by the AACC Pathways Project (2015).

Completing College: Rethinking Institutional ActionCompletion by DesignRedesigning America's Community CollegesHigher Learning Commission
AACC PathwaysComplete College America