Houston Community College faculty experience with diverse students in the classrooms: a search for effective instructional approaches
Community colleges continue to experience growth in enrollment and diversity. As the children of the baby-boom generation graduate from high school and as immigrants continue to flow into the country, it is expected that community colleges will continue to enroll 11 to 20 percent of the projected graduating high school students (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, 2004). Houston Community College (HCC) reports total credit student enrollment of 46,589 of which 26.5 percent are white, 23.8 percent are African American, 25.7 percent are Hispanic, 11.6 percent are Asian Pacific Islanders, and 12.7 percent are other. HCC employs 770 full-time faculty members of whom 61.2 percent are white, 21.6 percent are African American, 9.0 percent are Hispanic and 8.3 percent are other (HCC Fact book, 2002-2004). This study used critical incident technique, in-depth interviews, and focus groups to identify effective and ineffective instructional strategies for teaching diverse students. Twenty-four full-time faculty members with 10 or more years of teaching at Houston Community College were asked to share their experience with diverse students and their needs for professional development. Since Houston Community College has committed to become a Learning College, the study sought to determine faculty members’ perceptions and understanding of a Learning College as it exists at HCC. The study found that participating faculty members have seen increased numbers of diverse students in their classroom. They indicate that instructional strategies that require students to be critical thinkers, to engage in collaborative activities that are relevant beyond the classroom are strategies that work for diverse students. The faculty participants see a need for targeted professional development activities that will broaden faculty knowledge of the many cultures represented in their classrooms and help them develop additional effective instructional strategies that would assist them in retaining more minority students. The findings of this study add to the body of literature available on community college faculty, effective teaching strategies, and the challenges of becoming a Learning College. It provides administrators with relevant information to guide decisions as HCC plans to welcome the increasingly more diverse student body in the years ahead and as they participate in the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count Initiative.