Pathways Initiatives in Higher Education

There are a number of “pathway” approaches in higher education right now – guided pathways that provide co-requisite support for development or gateway course, transfer pathways that seek to reduce credit loss for students as they move between institutions, and career pathways that seek to embed liberal arts into the sciences and develop interdisciplinary critical thinking, teamwork, and collaboration, analytical problem solving, and experiential learning within curricula.

Guided pathways

Guided pathways speak to innovation in teaching by providing additional scaffolding for learners, particularly those unfamiliar with higher education systems, structures, and approaches. Guided pathways have been applied in many formats, but two are of interest for Equity 2030.

Transfer pathways recognize many of the realities of today’s students, many of whom do not have the luxury of attending college full-time in a residential setting. By acknowledging that many students may complete courses over longer periods of time, and possibly from multiple institutions, transfer pathways represent the starting point for creating a system that would support truly life-long learning. While most transfer pathways currently focus on transfer between specific institutions and include detailed and carefully constructed course maps, they point the way toward a future where students may be able to combine coursework from many different institutions, as well as demonstrated skills and abilities acquired in the workplace or community service, into an accepted college credential. The flexibility transfer pathways could bring to students at any point in their educational and career journeys would enliven the public service mission of colleges and universities and allow our democracy and our economy to grow and thrive.

Career pathways initiatives combine aspects of guided pathways and transfer pathways and extend them further to explicitly acknowledge the knowledge, skills, and abilities employers are looking for in college credentialed individuals. Career pathways initiatives done well integrate ethical reasoning, analytical problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, and diverse perspectives across the curriculum through an intentionally interdisciplinary approach. Rather than assuming students must complete a limited set of specific courses to satisfy a “logical reasoning” general education requirement, career pathways initiatives seek to embed proficiency in logical reasons throughout the courses necessary for each credential.