Histories of Developmental Education

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Histories of Developmental Education

The second annually published independent monograph sponsored by The Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota.
Dana Britt Lundell
Jeanne L. Higbee

Devjani Banerjee-Stevens

Jennifer A. Kreml

Assistant Editors

Karen A. Bencke

Cover Design & Layout

Copyright © 2002 by the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America.
The University of Minnesota is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation.
This publication/material can be made available in alternative formats for people with disabilities. Direct requests to Dana Lundell, General College, 333 Appleby Hall, 128 Pleasant Street SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, 612-626-8706.
Printed on recycled and recyclable paper with at least 10 percent postconsumer material.


Foreword v
Terence Collins

Introduction 1

Dana Britt Lundell and Jeanne L. Higbee

Historical Perspectives: With Hindsight We Gain Foresight 3

Norman Stahl

Supporting the Research Mission 7

David V. Taylor

A Brief History of the American Council of Developmental Education Associations 11

Hunter R. Boylan

History of Supplemental Instruction (SI): Mainstreaming of Developmental Education 15

David Arendale

Recovering the Vision of John Dewey for Developmental Education 29

Mary Ellen Shaw

History of Developmental Studies in Tennessee 35

Carol Hopper Bader and Carlette Jackson Hardin

The Conference on Basic Writing: 1980-2001 47

Karen S. Uehling

Professional Status for Writing Center Directors 59

Mildred Steele

Toward a Comprehensive Learning Center 65

Marti Singer

The General College Base Curriculum: Description, Historical Antecedents,

Theoretical Structure, and Evaluation Outcomes 73
Cathrine Wambach and Thomas Brothen

The Lessons of History: Transforming Science to Include Developmental Education 83

Randy Moore

Editorial Board

David Arendale

University of Missouri-Kansas City
Carol Bader

Middle Tennessee State University

Hunter Boylan

Appalachian State University

Thomas Brothen

University of Minnesota

Martha E. Casazza

National-Louis University

Carl Chung

University of Minnesota

Mary P. Deming

Georgia State University

Irene M. Duranczyk

Eastern Michigan University

Shevawn B. Eaton

Northern Illinois University

Patricia A. Malinowski

Finger Lakes Community College

Michael O’Hear

Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

Norman A. Stahl

Northern Illinois University

Cheryl B. Stratton

University of Georgia

David V. Taylor

University of Minnesota

Linda R. Thompson

Harding University


Terence Collins, Director of Academic Affairs

General College, University of Minnesota

There are good reasons why the title of this monograph is set in the plural form “histories.” We who work in developmental education work in plurals. We find our purposes grounded in divergent impulses and in local decisions long forgotten, in specific institutional events, and in large national movements. Yet we come together under the single banner of developmental education. As the histories captured here suggest, that banner stretches uncomfortably to cover our many diverse purposes and our many local entities.

If we take a long view, we see that developmental education traces its many roots to Reconstruction, to the Morrill Land Grant Act, to the Progressive Era, to the Workers’ Colleges of the Great Depression, to the G.I. Bill of Rights, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the Community College explosion of the late-mid-Twentieth Century, and to the Open Admissions movement that followed hard upon these latter events. We in developmental education are heirs to various moments of optimism about human possibility and the transformative possibilities of higher education. We and our students enact daily a peculiarly American optimism about human change and intellectual growth. These essays are important in helping us remember where we find our origins and our momentum.

I am especially proud that the General College (GC) of the University of Minnesota has collected and published this volume. In 1932, University President Lotus D. Coffman convinced his colleagues and the Board of Regents that those students who were not prospering in the standard arts and sciences curriculum had a legitimate place in the University. Under Malcolm Maclean and a group of visionary colleagues, the General College forged and published “developmental” curricula grounded in the needs of such students and informed by Dewey’s instrumentalist theories. The college continues this tradition today. During the Great Depression, the Land Grant promise of accessible higher learning and practical education flourished in GC. Among those early students who could not pass the entrance test for the Liberal Arts college was Norman Borlaug, whose path through General College led him to the study of plant genetics and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 as the “father of the Green Revolution.” In the years after World War II, large numbers of war-weary young people entered the University under the G.I. Bill of Rights. Many whose previous education had been interrupted by military service or by the demands of the war economy, like the esteemed Warren Spanaus, former Attorney General of Minnesota, and Dave Moore, award-winning newscaster and journalist, found their way into the University through General College and emerged to shape post-war civic and business life in Minnesota. Like most colleges and universities, the University of Minnesota stretched in new directions to educate the diverse students who entered higher education for the first time in the wake of the Civil Rights movement. General College and its faculty opened the University to new populations through flexible programs and new courses. Through Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and a radically ambitious student parent support program, students like Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Ph.D., Pulitzer nominated playwright and author, found their voice and their place in the University. Now, three decades later, GC remains the most ethnically vital and diverse community on campus.

Higher education is changing. Legislators and policy makers speak with alarm about the “epidemic of remediation” and too often seek to put restrictions on access as the racial and social class divisions in America widen. If we developmental educators wish to make telling arguments about our future, we will need to know and build on our past. Volumes like this one can help us chart our way. We are in the debt of those whose work appears here.


Dana Britt Lundell, Director

Jeanne L. Higbee, Faculty Chair

Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy

General College, University of Minnesota

The theme for this monograph arose from lively, productive conversations at the First Intentional Meeting on Future Directions in Developmental Education, October 1999, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sponsored by the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy and General College at the University of Minnesota. Norman Stahl’s (2000) summary of one of the salient themes from this meeting, reprinted as the opening piece in this monograph, calls upon the field of researchers and practitioners in developmental education to articulate the field’s diverse histories and foundations as a way to guide future practice, theory, and research. Stahl suggests examining the field’s past through a variety of lenses, including theoretical lenses, national and local policy issues, curricular and pedagogical trends, research frameworks, important individuals and students, and other items that mark the field’s work. The history is rich and highly diverse, and by making our work visible through documenting these activities, the field can strengthen its position as a leading force within higher education.

Following up on that meeting’s theme, we have provided a forum in this monograph to promote historical discussions in the field. Specifically, we chose the plural form of this word—“histories”—as the title of this monograph to emphasize the highly varied foundations, locations, and activities that define developmental education. This monograph is a collection reflecting a range of perspectives, including curricular histories, theoretical lenses, disciplinary foundations, local and national policy, and professional development. This collection provides a starting point for future conversations, and we hope other individuals and program leaders will be inspired to continue this articulation.

This volume begins with Stahl’s “Historical Perspectives: With Hindsight We Gain Foresight,” outlining the role of history in the field’s future. This is followed by an excerpt from a keynote address given by Dean Taylor, General College-University of Minnesota, at the Third Annual Research Conference in Developmental Education (October 24-28, 2001), in Charlotte, North Carolina, sponsored by the National Center for Developmental Education (NCDE). This speech offers an administrative perspective and observations from the vantage point of the General College’s history as one of the oldest developmental education programs in the nation.

In the next chapter, Boylan, Director of NCDE, offers “A Brief History of the ACDEAs—American Council of Developmental Education Associations,” in which he explores the development and role of the council’s leadership across organizations in the field. Arendale’s chapter presents the “History of Supplemental Instruction (SI): Mainstreaming of Developmental Education,” offering a detailed account of the development of SI programs across the nation. Shaw’s chapter provides yet another vantage point for the field, exploring an important theoretical lens for student development in “Recovering the Vision of John Dewey for Developmental Education.” Together, these chapters highlight important pieces of developmental education’s increasingly strong national presence and rich political history.

The next chapters shift toward a focus on programmatic and disciplinary histories, including Bader’s and Hardin’s “History of Developmental Studies in Tennessee,” which examines how evaluations and policy changes impact programs at the state level. Uehling’s chapter titled “The Conference on Basic Writing: 1980-2001” explores the growth of the basic writing profession as a strong developmental education leader in the field of composition studies. Similarly, Steele’s chapter on “Professional Status for Writing Center Directors” documents a common theme in developmental education—the struggle for professional status. Singer also offers another take on this theme, documenting the lessons learned from the discontinuation of developmental education learning services in “Toward a Comprehensive Learning Center.” In an examination of another program’s history, Wambach and Brothen offer “The General College Base Curriculum: Description, Historical Antecedents, Theoretical Structure, and Evaluation Outcomes.” This is followed by Randy Moore’s focus on the impact of history in the field of science education, “The Lessons of History: Transforming Science to Include Developmental Education.” These chapters inspire us to continue to think about the ways developmental education has evolved as a profession encompassing a diverse range of programs and services, and they encourage us to consider future directions for the field.

For making this monograph possible, we want to express our thanks to Dean David Taylor and Terence Collins, Director of Academic Affairs, at the General College, University of Minnesota, for continuing to support the Center and its publications. Thanks also to our Editorial Board members, who supported our work. Our fabulous editorial staff deserves much praise, including Jennifer Kreml and Devjani (Juni) Banerjee-Stevens (Assistant Editors), and Karen Bencke (technical support, layout, and cover design). We also thank all the authors who contributed to this monograph and believed in its purpose.

Stahl, N. (2000). Historical perspectives: With hindsight we gain foresight. In D. B. Lundell & J. L. Higbee (Eds.), Proceedings of the first intentional meeting on future directions in developmental education (pp. 13–16). Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota.

Historical Perspectives: With Hindsight We Gain Foresight

Norman Stahl

Northern Illinois University

This article is reprinted from the Proceedings of the First Intentional Meeting on Future Directions in Developmental Education, first published in 2001 by the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota.

The field of developmental education and learning assistance, along with its acknowledged subfields of college reading and study strategy instruction, basic composition instruction, and developmental mathematics instruction, might best be described as a very young but old field. For so many of our programs, it has been less than a generation since they were birthed, and for so many or our colleagues, it has been less than a decade since they began their service to the profession. On the other hand, the field of developmental education and learning assistance has a long and honorable history in service to the postsecondary institutions of the nation (Boylan, 1988; Maxwell, 1997; Stahl & King, 2000).

Hence, it is appropriate that we were called together in the waning days of the 20th century by the General College with its own long history of involvement with nontraditional students. It is equally appropriate that we met at the University of Minnesota, which has given so much to the field through the research, curriculum development, and important leadership of its faculty and staff such as Alton Raygor, Frances O. Triggs, Charles Bird, and David Wark. Their contributions form, in part, the history of developmental education and learning assistance.

The Historical State of the Art

We have a history to celebrate, but what have we done to preserve and to study our heritage? Clearly we have come some distance in recent years in the development and the publication of a respectable corpus of historical studies (Stahl & King, 2000). This history has been presented in a growing literature base composed of historical chronicles (e.g., Brier, 1983; Leedy, 1958), historical summaries and timelines (e.g., Boylan, 1988; Boylan & White, 1987; Maxwell, 1997; Wyatt, 1992), and topical or era-oriented papers (e.g., Quinn, 1995; Stahl, King & Eilers, 1996; Stahl & Smith-Burke, 1999). In reviewing the literature, one finds that broadly oriented sweeps of the historical landscape abound, but there is still a limited number of historical works focused on individuals, institutions, curricular movements, instructional innovations, and specific eras.

As long-term participants in our field, we have come to value the historical perspective and to recognize its importance as our field strives to be recognized as a legitimate academic entity by our colleagues throughout the academy. We fully understand that the conduct of historical research should be more than simply trying to fix one’s own place in history. Instead, we put forward a clarion call to all members of the field to undertake the continued examination of our roots and of our heroes from years gone by so that the legacy and the valued knowledge of the past two centuries can be shared with colleagues and simply not fade away in the new millennium.

Developmental Education History
at the National and State Levels

In advocating our position, we acknowledge that our history might be studied at two separate but nonetheless integrated levels: the national and state level, and the institution and program level. Let us examine the former at this point. Throughout our discussions of the field’s history at the national level as it goes back into the 1800s, there were numerous questions raised that might guide future research. Several examples can be put forward for the reader’s consideration at this point:

1. Through what scholarly lenses (e.g., social history, critical pedagogy) have we or might we examine our field’s history?

2. How have the contributions from our field impacted the larger field of postsecondary education over the decades? To what degree have we been either change agents or pawns in the larger arena?

3. How have the historical events and the curricular innovations and trends of postsecondary education impacted our field over the years?

4. What and how have governmental actions, economic policies and events, social issues, legal rulings, immigration trends, and general educational orientations and innovations influenced programs?

5. What have been the important programs and what were their particular contributions during past historical eras?

6. Who have been the individuals who have influenced the field, and what have been each individual’s key contributions?

7. What were the landmark scholarly texts, assessment devices, and curricular materials across the years, and why did these texts gain such status?

Questions pertaining to our past such as the aforementioned are among many requiring initial or continued scrutiny by the research community. In addition, clear consideration should be given to such questions by graduate students as they look for original and scholarly topics for either their thesis or their dissertation research.

Developmental Education History
at the Nearby Level

Let us now turn to a more localized or nearby form of historical endeavor for the developmental educator and the learning assistance professional. It is unfortunate that the orientation to history so many of us encountered in school taught us to value a cult of facts associated with great men, just wars, and momentous movements of the premodern and modern eras. All the while we overlooked the more personal and, ever so often, more relevant facets of nearby history. (See Kyvig & Marty, 1982, for in-depth coverage of many of the ideas underlying the practice of nearby history.) Indeed, as William Shakespeare penned, there is history in all men’s lives.

Clearly developmental educators must be ever cognizant that history is not the sole province of national and international events. If historical events and sociopolitical movements of the past two centuries have shaped the developmental education profession of 2000, so too has the impact of each been felt at the program, the institution, and the system levels. Furthermore, important history has been made within these organizations as well.

The five of us are in strong concordance that our colleagues within the developmental education and the learning assistance professions must place value on and then undertake the chronicling and celebrating of the roots of our respective programs whether these be at universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, or technical colleges. It is so true that the profession has much to gain by learning about our respective programs’ origins, milestones, dynamics, and effective leaders. The profession has much to learn from how particular programs faced and overcame adversity brought by academic forces internal to the institution or the higher education system, or by sociopolitical forces playing themselves out at the state or national levels. The profession has much to gain by embracing and promoting the practice of nearby history as a valued scholarly activity for the program, the institution, and the field of developmental education.

It is with the study of nearby history, whether through the review of published documents and unpublished sources, the examination of artifacts, or the conduct of oral histories, that we can answer questions such as the following:

1. Who are we as developmental educators, as members of our profession, and as members of our academic communities?

2. How have our programs evolved over the years to become what they are today?

3. How have we been able to contend with the various situations, both internal and external to the program, that have been encountered over the years of program operation?

4. What can we expect from people, programs, and policies that impact our professional lives?

5. How might we use historical lessons at one’s campus and from other schools to predict and plan for the future?

It is through the conduct of nearby history (for examples see Spann, 1996, and Walker, 1980) that we are able to build a professional community and a professional identity, all the while being able to celebrate the distinctiveness of each of our programs.

History in Our Future

Where we have failed, and we might say failed rather dramatically, is in the promotion of the historical perspective to those individuals serving in developmental education or learning assistance positions. National accreditation boards and state certification agencies require that all prospective teachers from preschool through the 12th grade demonstrate knowledge of the historical foundations of education. Individuals seeking advanced degrees in higher education are required generally to complete course work pertaining to the history of higher education. Our colleagues in developmental education do not have at this time formal accreditation agency mandates, and only in rare circumstances do they meet with institutional mandates requiring knowledge of the history of our field.

Because developmental educators and learning assistance specialists are more often than not self-trained in the field, few individuals have had the opportunity to learn about and hence to value our field’s rich heritage. Formal degree programs and certificate programs such as those offered by Appalachian State University, Grambling State University, Southwest Texas State University, and National Louis University are limited. Graduate courses like those found at Northern Illinois University and the University of Georgia that cover our history are not prevalent. It is little surprise, then, that we recommend that existing training programs direct attention to the historical foundation for the field through course objectives and degree requirements. In addition, we believe that through distance education and on-line courses there will be boundless opportunities for quality instruction about our field to be delivered to individuals not able to attend more traditional venues. In the future as this becomes the case, any courses or programs that make use of nontraditional delivery systems should include historical coverage of the field.

Presentations on the field’s history continue to be quite limited at conferences and symposia such as those put on by the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE), the National Center for Developmental Education (NCDE), and the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA). Unfortunately, when historical topics are available, the sessions tend to be attended poorly as individuals are more often than not seeking sessions providing guidance and best practice for the day-to-day concerns of the developmental educator. Hence, we voice a shared opinion that our national and state professional associations as well as those institutions delivering conferences and institutes should strive to foster the study of our history and the dissemination of such endeavors. Those organizations that do not have a historian on the board of directors, should appoint an individual to such a position. Those organizations that have an individual or committee charged with promoting the historical perspective of the organization and of the field should develop a formal plan by which the celebration of our history is an ongoing activity through the development of historical narratives and oral history projects.

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