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A Method to the Madness: Implementation and Early Effects of Guided Pathways Reforms in Tennessee

Many colleges approach reforms intended to improve student outcomes in a piecemeal, fragmented way, but guided pathways emphasizes the integration of multiple complementary reforms that function together to support students along their educational and career paths. The Tennessee community colleges have adopted many key guided pathways practices and implemented them simultaneously to reach all new students. The Tennessee colleges’ work is showing early promise and positive impacts. Some of the results are reflected in college- and system-level one-year key performance indicators that show students’ first-term and first-year credit momentum and their completion of college-level math and English in the first year.

This session began with background on the implementation of multiple, complementary guided pathways reforms by colleges nationally and in Tennessee specifically. It included what CCRC researchers have learned through Scale of Adoption Assessment data, calls with college teams, and site visits about what reforms have been implemented and how different processes and systems are working in tandem and at scale in colleges far along in this work. Then, two practitioners at Volunteer State Community College described how their planning, implementation, and on-the-ground efforts are helping students stay on track and complete across the college experience. 

The session included timeline visualizations of the student experience from application through completion. It also featured information on the college’s multiyear process to implement and scale various reforms, with an overview of the foundations of the work, important lessons learned, use of data to identify needs and design targeted interventions, and insights into the iterative nature of implementation processes. CCRC researchers shared data on state-level and Volunteer State Community College students’ credit momentum, including data disaggregated by race and age. They discussed developing understandings of how colleges are implementing multiple reforms, coordinating across staff and divisions, measuring student progression, and engaging in continuous improvement processes.


Research Associate
Community College Research Center
Terry Bubb
Director of Advising and Testing
Volunteer State Community College
Tim Amyx
Director of Admissions and College Registrar
Volunteer State Community College
Senior Research Associate and Director of Applied Learning
Community College Research Center

Associated Project(s)