Curriculum Development

Faculty Development

C2C was designed to accomplish two goals: (1) to prepare first-generation students of color for success in college; and (2) to prepare our faculty at Saint Mary’s University to help diverse learners achieve success through their teaching, advising, and mentoring.

Countdown to College is laser-focused on the mission of Saint Mary’s. The Brothers of the Christian Schools was founded to bring a Christian and human education to the sons of the working class and poor in 17th century France. Our Countdown to College program brings the hope of a college education to the 21st century children of the “artisans and the poor,” high-need students of color with academic potential.

Early on in his establishment of free schools, De la Salle realized the need to provide teacher training institutes for the teachers. The same is true today, as those of us who come from and have successfully taught in primarily white institutions welcome students from different cultures, learning styles, and economic challenges. So an integral part of C2C is our joint work as college instructors and partner-school teachers learning how best to serve our students.

College instructors for the C2C summer program consists primarily of instructors from Saint Mary’s undergraduate and graduate faculty. A mix of experienced C2C instructors and faculty who are new to the program is recruited in order to give stability to the program while also exposing new instructors to the benefits and challenges of teaching diverse students who are likely to be in their classrooms in just a few years. Co-teachers from our students’ home schools include both middle and high school teachers in a range of disciplines, from English to math and special education. As soon as college instructors are recruited a copy of the curriculum overview is provided so that they can begin to prepare for their summer instruction.

Our faculty development efforts focus on two primary sources of knowledge: (1) the writings of John Baptiste de La Salle from the Conduct of the Christian Schools; (2) research on teaching first-generation, frequently underprepared, college students. This focus on research-based learning approaches follows what La Salle did in insisting that only practices that were supported by practice be included in The conduct of the Christian schools (de la Salle, reprinted 2007).

Faculty development occurs during C2C via an opening-day workshop and four noon study sessions.

Opening workshop:

A four-hour Sunday workshop consists of:

  1. Overview of the C2C curriculum;
  2. Introduction to the writings of John Baptiste de La Salle, particularly; The Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher (Brother Agathon, fifth Superior General of the Brothers. Retrieved 5.26.2014)
  3. Time for team collaboration and setting up classrooms.

Curriculum Overview 2015

Noon meetings:

Our noon workshops focus on best practices for teaching minority low-income students, many of whom come from neighborhoods where less than 50% graduate from high school. All of the discussions are rooted in scholarly writings and how these translate to practical ideas that can be used immediately in our C2C teaching, and in the fall with our high school and college students.

A very interesting discussion ensues when the following matrix on application of de la Salle’s pedagogical writings to current best practices is presented:


De La Salle’s Principles

  • Large classes grouped by achievement levels with different assignments
  • “Simultaneous method” Teacher reads aloud, students follow with finger while reading silently
  • Each student assessed every six weeks for placement in proper learning group
  • Practical application of learning (e.g., reading contracts, math for business)
  • Vocabulary instruction that is NOT talking down; start at their level and raise them up

Present Best Practices

  • Differentiated Instruction
    Guided reading
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility
    Repeated Guided Reading
    Flipped Lessons/Guided Practice during class
  • Data-driven decision making
    Curriculum-based assessment
  • Problem-based learning
    Learning apprenticeships
  • Academic vocabulary instruction
    Discovery-based approach to learning word families derived from Latin and Greek

Discussion and Application

Another great source for faculty discussion and application comes from the book that is sent to all instructors and co-teachers before camp begins: Teaching unprepared students (Gabriel, 2008). While the focus is on college students, many of the teaching practices highlighted in this book are immediately applicable to the C2C classroom. Some examples:

  1. Year 3 and 4 instructors are encouraged to develop a syllabus for their course, and spend some of the first hour having students so a “Syllabus Hunt” to find answers to questions such as “How many points can you earn for class participation?”
  2. Online Learning Styles Inventories
  3. Creating different learning groups across the two-week course
  4. Modeling how to answer multiple-choice questions with a 10-minute mini-lecture, followed by group discussion of one M-C question with 8-10 possible answers

Workshops also include:

  1. Curriculum-based assessments that instructors can use to quickly assess knowledge and skills in their discipline
  2. Adaptations for course readings and textbooks that present a significant barrier to success for underprepared students