Making Process Improvement Accessible: Pathways to Results

by Ann Jones / Oct 17, 2012

Postsecondary education institutions, particularly community colleges, have historically paid a great deal of attention to student access but have often placed less emphasis on student outcomes (Bragg & Durham, 2012). Understanding what student groups are and are not achieving desirable outcomes provides essential insights into how academic programs, services, and processes can be improved to optimize equitable successes of future students. Looking critically at how processes create or contribute to gaps in student outcomes shifts the responsibility for process improvement from students to institutions and practitioners that can make a difference. Yet, for many, outcomes assessment for continuous improvement can be daunting. How can this task be made accessible to those who are most apt to use the information – those who work directly with community college students?

In 2009 OCCRL designed and introduced an outcomes-focused, equity-guided process that could be put into the hands of community college professionals.  Now in the fourth year of implementation, our Pathways to Results (PTR) project has made great strides toward making process improvement accessible.  Here are some examples of PTR’s successes and resources.

PTR Teams
OCCRL’s FY13 PTR project includes a state scale up to 19 sites from all across Illinois.  These sites will be working in a variety of programs of study from nursing and other health sciences to manufacturing, welding, computer information systems and criminal justice. There have been a total number of 47 PTR projects since the PTR process began. With 48 Illinois community colleges, almost all of them have been involved in the PTR process; some of them multiple times.

To aid community colleges who are using the PTR process, OCCRL produced a new set of PTR modules last spring. These materials include an introduction to PTR and modules that guide users through all five phases of the PTR process. Each module has tools and templates to help the sites implement the PTR process.

Meetings & Events
OCCRL led a successful Cross-Site meeting in conjunction with the Forum on Excellence on September 17, 2012. Participants, representing the 19 community college teams, were given an overview to two phases of the PTR process: Engagement and Commitment, as well as Outcomes and Equity Assessment.  A panel of four past team members provided advice on creating and sustaining partnerships, running meetings, and team communication.  A special thank you goes out to the members of that panel: Sherry Hott (SWIC), Diana Glosser (Lakeland), Julie Frankino (Waubonsee), and Teri Saxton (Heartland).


Bragg, D., & Durham, B. (2012). Perspectives on Access and Equity in the Era of (Community) College Completion. Community College Review, 40(2), 106-125.