Interview with Chad Dull
Dean of Instructional Support Services
Western Technical College (7:42)
Announcer: This is Making Futures; helping individuals discover their passion and fulfill their potential.
Interviewer: Today I'm speaking with Chad Dull, Dean of Instructional Support Services for Western Technical College, and we're talking about Remedial Education. Chad, just to start, what is remedial education, or as you say, developmental education?
Chad: Yeah, remedial and developmental education is just really a way to make sure students are ready and able to succeed in college. You know, students come to us, all different ages and all different places in life and have different levels of preparedness, of being ready to go to school. Our technical colleges offer classes that help people get ready. That's probably the simplest way to describe what remedial education is ... is if you haven't had math in some time or math has always been a challenge for you, we’re going to help you get ready and be able to do that at a college level and succeed.
Interviewer: So, how common is it for students to need some help and preparedness?
Chad: You know, it's very common. I know at my college it's roughly about 40% of our students come in needing at least one remedial or developmental course. And that matches kind of the national average for colleges over all. And at two-year colleges that number can range up to 50-60%. I think that's in large part, you know we serve non-traditional audiences sometimes; folks who haven't been in school in awhile. So it's not a reflection on their intelligence or their academic ability, it's just simply they need to kind of reactivate those learning centers that maybe they haven't thought about in awhile.
Interviewer: So how do students know they need remedial education?
Chad: Most institutions, I feel fairly safe in saying, that the most important step is placement testing. Colleges all have little different twists, but I know that all of our institutions, when you're coming into the college, you're going to have a chance to take a placement test. It might be a Compass, some places use Accuplacer; you may have taken an ACT. And that information will be the first step to seeing, 'are you ready for the courses that you'd like to take?' And then student services staff will help you be informed about what your options are to get ready. You know, one of the things I really value about working at a technical college is this notion of the "open door." That we're going to meet students where they're at, and move them along. It's really kind of a point of pride for me.
Interviewer: What kinds of remedial education do technical colleges offer? You mentioned some math, is writing something that people sometimes need help with, or computer skills?
Chad: Yep, I think it's kind of an 'all of the above.' You think the core areas math, writing and reading. Sometimes people don't ... they look at me when I say ‘reading’ but that notion of, you know, reading a college level text book; that's an important skill and sometimes people need to work on that. You hit the nail on the head with computer skills. There aren't, any programs really at our college and at very many colleges where you don't need to have some basic level of computer skills, and we recognize that not every student brings those; especially depending on your age and stage of life. We've had lots of dislocated workers who had 25-year careers somewhere else, so they needed to get those computer basics to get comfortable with that. When you talk about kinds of remedial education, I think it's also important to note, it comes in lots of different forms. There are entire courses that colleges offer, developmental courses, basic skills courses. There's also, what I would call supplemental opportunities, where you just need some help to get through the course that you're in, so colleges will have short term tutoring and help. We're also looking at ... the State has an initiative called the Rise Initiative where we're working really hard to see if we can do remedial education in the context of the program that you want to study. So instead of learning fractions, just thinking about fractions, maybe I'm working on fractions to build something if I'm interested in a wood techniques degree or working on things out of my chronometer if I have interest in electronics. That notion of learning my skills in context helps students to get a foothold right away and feel like they're learning something really valuable.
Interviewer: Yeah, it's much more motivating to see the application right away.
Chad: Absolutely, absolutely. You get in there and you know … it can be a hard sell to students to say ‘Ok, I know you need to get ready and we're going to spend an entire semester just learning basic skills.’ Boy, if you can tie it to the things that brought them to school in the first place the odds of success go way up.
Interviewer: So, once again, what are the steps to enrolling in remedial programs?
Chad: You know, of course, every college has its own little twists and turns, but I can safely say that the first place that someone would want to go is Admissions or Student Services at their college. And those are the people that are going to help guide them through this kind of placement assessment. We try not to frighten students by saying ‘it's a placement test’ because it's not the kind of test that you can fail. It's just a test that tells you where you need to begin. At that point, professional staff at the college, would help people understand whether you needed to register online or in person with someone, and I can say with great confidence that the departments that provide remedial and developmental education, are some of the kindest, most welcoming places on all of our campuses.
Interviewer: Oh, that's a really good point to make. We've probably answered this question, but I'll ask it again. Can students be taking remedial education along with other courses or is remedial education a prerequisite to registering for classes?
Chad: The answer to both of those questions is yes. So, let me explain a little further. There are sometimes, there are specific courses that you need to complete a prerequisite course for. So it's pretty common that students might be taking the remedial course in that area, but at the same time taking a credit course in another area. Which is actually a nice place to be, relating back to what we said about ... people want to feel like they're making progress. So if I can take a developmental math course, but at the same time I'm taking a speech class because … you know a credit speech class ... because I was ready for that, we encourage students to do that. And to get their feet wet and have some college success. So I think, yeah, students are certainly… the classes that are available to go along with the remedial courses are open to them, and again I think their student services staff would help them understand when the remedial course is going to be a prerequisite for another course.
Interviewer: That's really helpful I'm sure. I've been speaking with Chad Dull, Dean of Instructional Support Services at Western Technical College regarding remedial or developmental education. Chad made the point that, students of all levels can be admitted to a technical college, and the college will help them to be prepared for the program they're entering. Thank you Chad.
Chad: Thank you for your time.
Announcer: Making Futures is a presentation of Wisconsin's 16 Technical Colleges. Thanks for listening.