Dr. Jennifer Lee-Good, Assistant Professor; Susan Godwin, Professor; Michael Morsches, Dean, Learning Enrichment and College Readiness; and Dr. Rita Ferriter, Associate Professor

Ten years ago, the Developmental Reading faculty embarked on a journey of trust, courage and self-assessment to “confront the grades” they distribute and set the groundwork for discussion and reflection about each of their teaching philosophies and practices. Their findings and the resulting changes to the program have increased student success rates and led to them being awarded the 2022 Innovation of the Year Award.
Dr. Rita Ferriter, Susan Godwin, and Dr. Jennifer Lee-Good, with guidance from Michael Morsches, decided to review the grade patterns and distributions of their students to improve instruction. Their initial analysis was eye-opening when they discovered a severe compression of passing grades existed —most of the successful students received grades of C, with only 4% receiving an A grade, and they were not passing as many students as they thought they were. Also, students in the lowest level of reading were not persisting into credit courses.

“Without question, the students who passed the course were hard-working and persistent—an important learning outcome. However, perhaps the resulting grades upon exiting the sequence did not fully acknowledge their gains and grant them access to progression, the more applicable learning outcome,” Lee-Good said.

As a team, they decided to align their efforts and re-evaluate how they were going to assess, grade and support students in the process rather than the end result of an assignment being the bottom line. To do so, each of them was challenged to not only consider what their philosophy of teaching is but to understand why, as well as push one another to consider viable alternative approaches and, again, answer why or how.
Through intense and collaborative discussions that, according to Godwin, were, “complicated, took leadership, fellowship and a crazy amount of trust,” the faculty created a safe environment that allowed each of them to challenge their beliefs yet still feel supported throughout the process. They discussed the intersection of curriculum, instruction and evaluation, finding that once they delved into one aspect of their individual and collective practices, other opportunities for discussion and improvements presented themselves.

“The magic of this project really comes from a place of vulnerability and sharing of teaching beliefs and practices with colleagues, knowing the purpose is to question and be questioned. We often started in three different places, with three different reasons, but, after collaboration, we ultimately ended up on the same page,” Good-Lee said.

The process led to greater grading uniformity and a shifted focus to individual grade patterns and the actual meaning of the grades they give students. Other changes included changed point values, modified assessments and rubrics and a focus on support. The lasting changes to the program not only increased student efficacy and rewarded students more equitably for the learning, but also dramatically increased student success rates for the entire program: they had shifted the distribution of passing grades and raised the overall course success rates—defined as students receiving an A, B or C— by more than 45%.
“Students are earning better grades because we aligned curriculum, assessments and evaluations. It is now easier for them to gain personal momentum and success. The anticipated outcome of this project, for me, was increased support of our developmental reading students but the unexpected outcome was the personal growth and increased cohesiveness to an already collaborative department,” Good-Lee said.
Ferriter agreed. “Undoubtedly, my favorite aspect of this extensive project was our collaborative method. There were many layers of this project, and I consider myself lucky to have worked alongside such great colleagues,” she said.

One faculty member shared the approach reminded her of the need for developmental programs to be “systematic, replicable and accountable.” Based on this work, the entire Developmental Education Department will be engaged in a grade analysis.
“Not every department can participate in a project of this magnitude without first considering the implications to the department. Michael was amazing at wrangling us through the process in incremental steps. He was a sage and a sounding board. Without his support, we would not have been able to manifest the level of success we achieved,” Lee-Good said.

This journey began a decade ago and has since evolved into so much more than the faculty anticipated. A joint statement from them said, “Prior to beginning our project, we worked very well as colleagues and maintained an earned level of respect for one another; however, the project allowed us to get to know one another even more. We worked hard to create consistency among us and strived to make changes that would support our students even more. Ultimately, it will help support our entire department and its students for years to come. We are humbled to have published a paper, presented at a national conference and now are being recognized by Moraine Valley for our transparency and our efforts. We fully acknowledge all who also were being considered for this award and know their efforts and work are equally important for the students at Moraine Valley. We would like to thank our dean, Michael Morsches, for allowing us this opportunity for growth as an instructor, a team, professionally and personally and his continued support and dedication toward our students. Also, we would like to highlight the support we and our students receive from Advising, Counseling and Tutoring.”