How Do Community Colleges Improve Student Outcomes?

Doctor of Education Classroom

Change is a reality for organizations like community colleges, which must adapt to changing environments or risk becoming irrelevant—or extinct. This study explored the ways department chairs communicated with faculty during key moments of change in two colleges that have seen improvements in student retention and completion. The study linked successful communication practices of department chairs with faculty participation in change efforts. As they informed, motivated, and supported faculty, the chairs in this study gained and sustained faculty engagement and in doing so impacted student success. The chairs prioritized inclusive, collaborative communication, framing change as a learning process driving continuous improvement focused on student success.

Key Points

  • Chairs emphasized the benefits of change instead of focusing on the negative side.
  • Chairs shared information but prioritized seeking faculty input.
  • Chairs used targeted rather than blanket messaging.
  • Chairs prioritized efficacy (“we can do this”) over discrepancy (“something must change”) messages.
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