Our most vulnerable graduates who go to college overwhelmingly attend community college. The Student Success Task Force for Community Colleges recently reported that "more than 70 percent of community college students who enter the system are under prepared to do college-level work with the majority being first generation college students, low-income and/or minority."
I have always known that Organized Binder is a tool that could benefit community college instructors. Baily, Smith Jaggers, and Jenkins in their 2015 book Redesigning America's Community Colleges suggest that to "take control of their learning, students need to practice skills such as self-regulation, task planning, time management, note taking, and organizing study time effectively", all hallmarks of Organized Binder.
I am very pleased to announce that the first Organized Binder Community College Pilot occurred in the fall semester of 2015 at Sierra College in California. The data team at the college created and administered an independent survey to gauge the impact the system had in the classrooms that participated in the pilot. The results are in and the data is overwhelming! The pilot was so successful other community college campuses in California are adopting Organized Binder in 2016.
I asked professor Jason Roberts to share a snapshot of why he decided to implement Organized Binder and the impact he saw it have on his teaching and his students learning and achievement.
"After learning about the system I decided to pilot Organized Binder in my classes at Sierra Community College. While Organized Binder has been very successful in the k-12 space, my pilot was the first at a community college. I chose to pilot the program because I saw the absolute need for Organized Binder at the community college level. I would like to start by saying that Organized Binder never impinged upon the actual content of my courses, nor did it force me to teach a “certain way.” It weaves itself into the course, but it does not alter what I teach and, in most cases, it did not alter how I teach aside from helping me to be more prepared and better organized.
After 15 years of community college teaching – and constant revision of my curriculum to address student needs – Organized Binder has proven to be the most successful tool for students and for my own teaching. Many of my students need to understand how to “be a student” – and many of these skills are assumed at the college level. Some professors assume that students know how to organize themselves, how to study for exams, how to meet deadlines, how to set goals, and how to think. However, most students need exposure to and practice employing these noncognitive factors. To do so we need to reach students in a different, more personal way, which is the primary idea behind the Equity movement. Although this seems daunting to many instructors, Organized Binder manages this task for the instructor and provides a simple tool for student success.
My students immediately connected with the ritual of Organized Binder. Exemplified in the daily Kick-Off prompt and Learning Log on the Weekly Lifeline, students write at the beginning and end of class about what they learned or what confused them from the lesson. For students this is a key metacognitive piece, and as I read their responses each week, I was able to address individual students and their specific needs about course material. Additionally, I quickly assessed students who clearly understood the material and it made it easy for me to get to know each student on an individual level.
Building the Agenda as a class proved to be another powerful tool. Each day’s class content and homework were clearly addressed, and the entire class, including me, was literally on the same page. This helped eliminate missing assignments and late assignments as students knew exactly what was due, in detail, each day. Rather than looking to a course calendar I constructed on my own, we built the calendar each day in class. The process of writing the day’s work and the homework themselves was incredibly powerful. As a result, most of my students found Organized Binder to be a powerful (and even necessary) tool for the academic success.
Here is what some of the Sierra College students who used Organized Binder had to say about the system:
"I feel very strongly about the integration of Organized Binder in the entirety of the Sierra College Campus because it has tremendously helped me to keep myself organized, and engaged with the class. One of the greatest aspects of Organized Binder is its clarity, as well as its versatility. So to say, it's an adaptable form of organization in all classes, and when utilized correctly, can be the key to your educational success. Specifically: Easy Access- all the material in Organized Binder is always readily available. I have never had to say that "I left material at home" because as long as I had my binder I had everything I needed."
"This Binder setup is really helpful and I look to use it in other classes of mine."
"Best class I have ever taken at Sierra. I have learned so much and he made the class fun at the same time. He made sure that all the students in the class understood the material. Thanks a lot."
"Organized Binder helped me be more organized. I am not organized when it comes to keeping up with work and homework but with the organized binder that has changed."
"It helped me keep track of my work and it allowed me to find notes and information more easily than I would if papers were randomly put into my binder."
"I like the idea of using Organized Binder in this class, it was really helpful and if we can get other teachers to do that in classes it will be great!"
"Organized Binder would be very helpful in every class that I am currently taking. I would love to see it in my future courses."