115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Literature and Guided Pathways: A Rhetorical Approach 

Kristin Brunnemer, Pierce College

Guided Pathways and other reform movements taking place at broad-access colleges and universities present a particular challenge to literature courses when such classes are not seen as central to students’ career-focused majors and accelerated coursework.  This paper provides a rhetorical approach with models, principles and practices for framing literature as “integrative curriculum” (Bintz et al). 


Throughout the country, colleges and universities (particularly those that offer broad access, with many first-generation enrollments) are moving toward a model of advising and curriculum development called “Guided Pathways,” a series of reforms that are meant to “improve institutions’ outcomes at much higher rates (and at a lower cost per successful completion) than do other reform strategies” (Bailey, Jaggars and Jenkins 19).   In brief,  Guided Pathways and similar models argue that “broad access” institutions are still modeled on a ‘cafeteria style’ set of class options that while “appropriate to their primary mission in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, which was to dramatically expand access to higher education” are “not well designed to address the need of today’s students, who want to enter and complete programs that confer economically valuable certificates and degrees as quickly and efficiently as possible” (American Association of Community Colleges).  Under Guided Pathways, many colleges are moving to accelerate student coursework, ensure students pick career-focused majors, and condense course offerings to those deemed most suitable for advancing the students’ chosen career paths.

Given that first-generation students are “more likely than other students to pick business or vocational fields” and “less likely to end up in the sciences or the humanities,” (Jaschik),   Guided Pathways generates a  particular challenge for literature courses, which are often dismissed as non-essential, optional, or lacking in clear economic correlatives to the major.  Rather than predict or lament the decline of “lit classes”, this paper asks how to shift the rhetorical approach to literature within the Guided Pathways model by incorporating and infusing literature across the curriculum.  Using the works of Bintz et al, Irvine, Kawai, Bruni, Schroeder, and Wolff, I examine principles and practices for positing literature as “integrative curriculum” (Bintz et al), which aids students in cultivating “ways of reading and correlative ways of thinking that are sufficiently complex for our increasingly intricate and dynamic world” (Irvine 3).  This presentation also provides models of this rhetorical approach, alongside best practices for colleges and universities faced with articulating literature’s place within pathways and changing general degree requirements.

  Works Cited

American Association of Community Colleges.  “The Movement Toward Pathways.” N.D.  AACC.NCHE.Edu.http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Resources/aaccprograms/pathways/Pages/Projectinformation.aspx.  Accessed 17 May 2017.

Bailey, Thomas R., Shanna Smith Jaggars and David Jenkins. Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success.  Harvard University Press, 2015.

Bintz, William P., et al.  “Using Literature to Teach Inference across the Curriculum.”  Voices from the Middle, Vol 20, Issue 1, September 2012. 

Irvine, Collin C.  Teaching the Novel Across the Curriculum: A Handbook for Educators.  Greenwood Press, 2008.

Jaschik, Scott.  “First Generation Challenges.”   Inside Higher Ed. 10 August 2005.  https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/08/10/first