My goal is to increase the numbers of adults who begin and complete further education by helping practitioners improve their institutional and instructional practices. Often my relationship with clients starts when I'm asked to share my research on adult learners in college preparation or transition classes. After hearing my findings and recommendations, practitioners reach out to me, curious about how to apply the research in practice.
Consultation starts with an exploration of each client's needs, resources, and goals. The first one-hour meeting is always complimentary. I listen to what a client has in mind, respond with questions and, within a week, offer a preliminary proposal. After gathering feedback and discussing budget, we dive deeper and I then present a more formal proposal with specific action steps and a timeline. Most consultations include some combination of professional development, curriculum development, or a redesign of existing policies or systems.
A wide variety of people teach, advise, design, and manage programs for adults new to college. Some are professors with disciplinary expertise. Some are K-12 teachers or educators in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) system. Others are career or academic advisors. No matter their training or experience, most threshold practitioners are more familiar with one side of the college door than the other. I help clients by building on their existing knowledge and experience, and helping to fill in the gaps.
Why is this important? Threshold education is an emerging field that invites practitioners to expand their understanding of diverse student perspectives, life experiences, learning differences, and experiential knowledge. Adult educators are also adult learners, and as such, they, too, need mentors and teachers.
I am a learning coach and collaborator for administrators, advisors, and faculty/instructors seeking to better reach, teach, and support adult students. I connect my clients with relevant research on adult learning and development, and provide information about innovative and effective threshold programs which may serve as models. I facilitate interactive professional development workshops tailored to my clients’ needs, and am available to observe classes and provide sensitive, insightful feedback and recommendations to support instructor learning.
As threshold educators become more familiar with students' experiences on both sides of the college door, they become more effective at supporting students who aspire to cross over. Clients say that working with me gives them the opportunity to surface important issues, and have productive cross-departmental conversations that result in meaningful program improvements.
Many adult students have been out of school for a long time, have painful memories of being students, or are the first in their families to attempt college. Many have extremely stressful lives and a history of trauma or adverse life experiences. To them, college processes, language, and people can feel foreign and intimidating. Threshold students need more than grit and academic skills in order to succeed in school and use academic experiences to expand their options in life.
Why is this important? When learners feel that they are not college material or they believe they do not fit into the college culture, it affects their motivation, their use of support services, and their ability to learn and persist. Their first experiences back in school need to inspire hope. These experiences need to feel manageable, respectful, and personally meaningful.
I develop scaffolded learning activities that help adult learners discover the joy and power of college learning and academic inquiry. I use an approach that validates their experiential knowledge and builds bridges between what they already know and what they will be asked to learn and do in college. Becoming a college student is an emotional and practical challenge, not only a cognitive one, and my lessons acknowledge this. In addition to lessons I have already developed to share with clients, I design customized curricula, and support instructors seeking to expand existing materials.
I help my clients think through program challenges, identify problems, and explore solutions. One common starting place is the intake process. Beyond gathering student data required by funders and others, I help clients design an intake process that focuses more on peoplework than paperwork. The goal is to develop a relationship with prospective students. While this kind of intake indeed collects necessary data, the information gathered goes far beyond demographics, educational attainment, academic skill level, and student goals. It provides a more holistic understanding of students’ lives, strengths, and challenges, all of which practitioners can use to design responsive approaches.
Why is this important? First impressions matter. The students’ first experiences with a college or a program impact their decision-making about enrollment and their beliefs about their learning capacities, and prospects for success. Because just getting to school and carving out time to focus on their school-related work is such a challenge, students' daily experiences with practitioners, staff, and other students influence persistence.
Intake interviews, marketing materials, and daily practices communicate the culture of a program. Intake is a chance for your program to start building trust with hopeful, but often reluctant students. I help clients take a more intentional approach to welcoming, orienting, and learning about prospective students. Most importantly, I assist clients in creating processes that highlight students’ strengths rather than emphasizing academic deficits.