In recent years, an increasing number of students entering college have needed to take remedial classes. Remedial classes -- also known as developmental or basic skills courses -- are intended to address academic deficiencies and prepare students for the rigorous college-level coursework they'll be engaged in during their program of study. While remedial classes are aimed at students' academic development, placement in remedial classes often affect students psychologically as well.
Lowered Student Self-Esteem
A college admission is exciting news for students and families to receive. Many high school students, especially those from low-income families, work very hard to reach minimum grade-point averages and other pre-admission requirements of colleges and universities. After being granted admission to college, hearing that they need to take remedial classes before beginning college coursework can lower students' self-esteem. Along with placement in developmental courses comes an implication or underlying message of failure. After progressing through numerous remedial classes, many students lack the esteem and motivation necessary to continue onto their degree coursework.
Instead of providing challenges to lower-performing students, many college campuses take the approach of “dumbing down” instruction in remedial classes. Starting in the primary grades, students are often stereotyped as slow or stupid if they are placed in remedial or lower-performing instructional groups. According to Claude Steele, professor of psychology at Stanford University, studies have found that students placed in stigmatized groups, such as students who need to take remedial classes, achieve lower scores on tests and other progress-monitoring assessments as a result of being included in a group that is expected to achieve less.
Increased Frustration, Decreased Motivation
Most remedial classes offered by colleges are not applicable toward degree credit requirements. Furthermore, a large number of universities restrict enrollment in certain classes until remediation has been successfully completed. For many students, being placed in remedial classes increases the time it will take to meet the credit requirements of their degree program. Remedial placement can also restrict community college students from transferring to four-year universities. With limited class schedules and lengthened time before graduation, student motivation can be negatively effected by remedial classes as frustration levels rise. For some students, placement in remedial programs eventually leads to withdrawal from college.
A Different Approach to Remediation
The realization that so many high school students are entering college under-prepared academically has caused state legislators and educators to examine the disconnect between K-12 and post-secondary expectations. Instead of waiting to find out that students aren't ready for college-level courses until they fail college placement tests, some states have begun to give college placements to students during their sophomore or junior years. High school students who score poorly on college placement tests during these years are then given opportunities to take college-prep courses during their senior year. Providing students with extra support prior to entering college can reduce the chances that they'll need to take remedial classes.
- McGraw-Hill Research Foundation: Improving College Student Success
- National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education: The Remediation Debate
- Stanford University News Service: Stereotypes Found to Affect Performance on Standardized Tests
- National Conference of State Legistlatures: Reforming Remedial Education
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images