Preparing for the Unprepared: Strategies for Equitable, Inclusive Education

The Covid-19 pandemic may have emphasized the struggles of students who are preparing to enter into higher education making them academically unprepared. Academically unprepared students are students who may be unable to perform work or demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, or mathematics, or similar topics at the college or university level.

Some of the students’ struggles include adaptations in the transition to remote learning, which in cases have made more evident the inequality that already existed in the United States. The access to fundamental technologies such as laptops and other devices, and Internet connectivity may have created disparities enhanced by the Covid-19 pandemic. And even though these struggles may have existed before, they have been enhanced by the pandemic.

In order to be successful in their learning, every student —disregarding their background— needs to have access to these devices and technologies which are fundamental in today’s learning environment. The reality shows that many groups struggle to get access to these technologies.

As background, over 60 percent of the total of students who attend either a two-year or four-year post-secondary institution enroll in at least one remedial course, according to research conducted in 2019. In California, over 90 percent of economically disadvantaged students require remediation in English language learning. Marginalized or disadvantaged groups are more likely to be classified as academically underprepared, according to research conducted by Dom et al in 2020.

During the recent virtual REMOTE Summit sponsored by Arizona State University (ASU), Andrew Berrett, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist at Pearson, spoke about ways higher education instructors can leverage education technologies in order to provide effective and equitable support to academically underprepared incoming post-secondary students.

Dr. Berrett, who has a background in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and a professional background in Quantitative Education evaluation technology tools for K-12 and higher education, took a moment to acknowledge that “we should absolutely be proud of our children for their resilience and successes that they achieved during this unique educational environment and the challenges that were imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Over 60 percent of students who attend either a two-year or four-year post-secondary course enroll in at least one remedial course for the purpose of being better prepared for their major courses coming up,” said Dr. Berrett. “The composition of these academically underprepared students typically consists of students who are both or either academically economically disadvantaged or part of marginalized or minority groups.”

According to Dr. Andrew Berrett, whose research expertise centers on quantifying the impact of digital learning tools on student academic outcomes, the key questions that academics must reflect upon before addressing education technologies to assist in their classroom are:

  • What academic supports are offered at your institution and/or in your classrooms for incoming underprepared first-year students who are academically and demographically diverse?
  • Who have (and have not) accessed these supports in the past?
  • How could your institution and/or instructors leverage education technology to improve access and utilization of these supports for underprepared students of all backgrounds?

How to leverage education technology for transition support

According to Dr. Berrett, after identifying the learning gaps and conducting diagnostic assessments, education technology could provide modularized and compressed courses, co-enrollment with major pathway courses, and increased affordability and access which are often compatible with mobile and desktop devices.

To identify learning gaps Dr. Berrett recommends Pearson GapFinder A&P which is able to assess student knowledge and skill on prerequisite topics prior to enrolling in A&P. It also runs online diagnostic assessment and online learning modules focused on identified deficiencies.

In addition to enhancing the educational technology your institution may already have, perhaps you need to obtain additional technology support to help students during the transition period. Here you can find online teaching support and strategies.

For more REMOTE related articles go to:

6 Evidence-Based Techniques for Hybrid Teaching

Lessons Learned From the Pandemic Will Forever Shape Higher Education

Higher Education Faculty at the Helm of Equality and Inclusion