Culturally Diverse Learners


  • Validating culturally diverse students: Toward a new model of learning and student development
    This study demonstrated that nontraditional students, no matter how fragile, can be transformed into full members of the college academic and social community. The importance of this finding cannot be over stated, for it points to real hope for students who do not see themselves as “college material” or who feel that college life has little or nothing to do with the realities from which they come. What is needed to transform these students is for faculty, administrators, and counselors to fully engage in the validation of students and to recognize that not all students can be expected to learn or to get involved in institutional life in the same way. Diversity in nature is a strength. So is diversity among college students. The challenge is how to harness that strength, and how to unleash the creativity and exuberance for learning that is present in all students who feel free to learn, free to be who they are, and validated for what they know and believe.
  • Higher Education and Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Way Forward 
    This paper acknowledges the growing diverse student population in the United States and the need for active teaching and learning models in our colleges. Many of the research materials discussed in this paper support the assumption that students’ cultural backgrounds influence if not dictate how students learn. Culturally responsive teaching has been observed as the missing pedagogical link in most colleges in the United States. This paper examines some culturally responsive teaching methods and suggestions that will enhance the teaching of culturally diverse students in our colleges across the United States. In reviewing many research articles on culturally responsive teaching, the author noticed a definite gap between college faculty members and elementary school teachers in the area of culturally responsive teaching. At the college level, the preparation of pre-service student teachers in multicultural education appears to represent virtually the only effort colleges make to address cultural issues pedagogically.
  • Five Competencies for Culturally Competent Teaching and Learning
    Today’s classrooms require that instructors possess competencies for teaching all students. Robust instructional strategies and culturally sensitive curricula are critical, but more important is an instructor who is sensitive and responsive to the unique differences of each student. Recognizing the need to strengthen specific competencies to reach and teach all students requires an understanding of new ideas and a willingness to view instruction through varied cultural lenses.
  • Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All: The Crucial Rose of Student Supports
    This white paper focuses on an important and under-conceptualized thread in the weave of efforts needed to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and/or career training: enhanced student supports. It argues that in order to overcome the educational impacts of poverty – the poverty challenge, schools that serve high concentrations of low income students need to be able to provide direct, evidence-based supports that help students attend school regularly, act in a productive manner, believe they will succeed, overcome external obstacles, complete their coursework, and put forth the effort required to graduate college- and career-ready. Next, it highlights the unique role that nonprofits, community volunteers, and full-time national service members can play in the implementation of these direct student supports. It concludes by exploring how federal and state policy and funding can be designed to promote the implementation and spread of evidence-based, direct student supports. The paper draws on the emerging evidence base to examine these topics, and calls upon the insights gleaned through the author’s fifteen years of participant-observation in the effort to create schools strong enough to overcome the ramifications of poverty and prepare all students for adult success.

Data Use

  • Community College Faculty and Developmental Education
    Community colleges have long provided broad access to large numbers of Americans who seek opportunities in higher education. Indeed, for many the only entrée into postsecondary learning is through an affordable public institution that can offer an array of career choices and possibilities for exploration or that can serve as a launching pad to a four-year institution. Yet many of these students arrive under-prepared for college-level work. Those adults who work with these hopeful youth in an effort to provide them with future opportunities experience multiple challenges. The circumstances that surround the majority of these students exert myriad social and economic pressures. Striving to promote excellence in this context requires a multi-faceted support system to help students achieve success.
  • A Growing Culture of Evidence?
    Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving outcomes among community college students, especially low-income students and students of color. A central ATD strategy is to promote a “culture of evidence,” in which colleges collect, analyze, and make decisions based on information about students in order to inform improvements in practice. 

    This report examines the use of data on students by faculty, administrators, and student services staff at six Washington State colleges that joined ATD in 2006–2007. Surveys were administered to faculty and administrators in 2007 and to faculty, administrators, and student services staff in 2010.
  • Evidence-Based Decision Making in Community Colleges: Findings from a Survey of Faculty and Administrator Data Use at Achieving the Dream Colleges
    The study reported on here, conducted by researchers from the Community College Research Center and MDRC, examines what specific data college faculty and administrators use in their jobs and the extent to which they use data analysis to design and improve the impact of programs and services. 

    This study is based on a survey of faculty and administrators at 41 community colleges participating in Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count. Achieving the Dream is a major national initiative designed to improve educational outcomes for community college students, particularly students of color, low-income students, and others who face barriers to success in college. 

    In addition to the surveys, structured telephone interviews were conducted with administrators and faculty at four of the colleges that participated in the survey, to explore in greater detail key findings from the survey.

Learning Communities

  • What Have We Learned About Learning Communities at Community Colleges?
    In July 2012, MDRC and the National Center for Postsecondary Research released two reports on the effectiveness of learning communities, a popular strategy that places small cohorts of students together in two or more thematically linked courses, usually for a single semester, with added support, such as extra advising or tutoring.

    The theory behind learning communities is that they give students a chance to form stronger relationships with each other and their instructors, engage more deeply with the integrated content of the courses, and access extra support, making it more likely they’ll pass their courses, persist from semester to semester, and graduate with a credential. 
  • National Center for Postsecondary Reserarch: Learning Communities
    Led by researchers from MDRC, NCPR is evaluating learning communities, in which groups of students enroll together in two or more courses. The evaluation is being conducted at six community colleges around the country, with some colleges' programs focused on developmental math, others focused on developmental English or reading, and one with a career focus. These courses are linked with student success courses, other developmental courses, or college content courses in different configurations across the sites. Transcript-level data are being used to evaluate the impact of assigning students to a learning community, using a number of outcome measures that include progress through developmental education, credit accumulation, and persistence.
  • U.S. News & World Report: Learning Communities. College Ranking Lists
    At some schools, students typically take two or more linked courses as a group and get to know one another and their professors especially well. The idea is to keep the discussions going after class ends. In spring 2013 we invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions from more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 10 institutions with stellar examples of learning communities. Colleges and universities that were mentioned most often are listed here, in alphabetical order.
  • Black Male Student Success in Higher Education
    Black men’s dismal college enrollments, disengagement and underachievement, and low rates of baccalaureate degree completion are among the most pressing and complex issues in American higher education. Perhaps more troubling than the problems themselves is the way they are continually mishandled by educators, policymakers, and concerned others. Amplifying the troubled status of Black male students at all levels of education has, unfortunately, yielded few solutions. Thus, educational outcomes for this population have remained stagnant or worsened in recent years. This is attributable, at least in part, to the deficit orientation that is constantly reinforced in media, academic research journals, and educational practice.
  • Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges
    Race Matters: Consistently and unmistakably, data show a persistent gap separating Latinos and Black males from other student groups on measures of academic progress and college completion. These gaps exist across higher education. They are undeniable and unacceptable.
  • Data Points: Serving Hispanic Students


  • A Matter of Degrees: High-Impact Practices for Community College Student Engagement
    The community college field is evolving dramatically. It has been 10 years since the Center for Community College Student Engagement presented results from the first national administration of its flagship survey. Over the past decade, institutions enrolling more than 80% of U.S. community college students have used Center surveys to assess their students’ engagement so they can improve institutional practice and student outcomes. This focus on engagement is one of many changes in the ways community colleges are using data to understand and improve the educational experiences of their students.
  • Making Connections: Dimensions of Student Engagement
    Most students arrive at college expecting to succeed and believing that they are motivated to do so. Too often, though, there is an evident difference between being motivated and being prepared to succeed. Still, community college students often come to recognize one factor that plays a pivotal role in their success: connections.