Guided Pathways Deep Dive

Our vision is to “transform” the student experience to meet the education and employment needs of the community. This is a bold approach, as it requires institutional alignment of our people, structures, practices, policies, procedures and culture.

Now let’s take a look at demystifying Guided Pathways, one the focus areas of Transformation. The ultimate goals of the Guided Pathways work at MCCCD include:

  • Create guided education pathways that ensure students achieve their goals.
  • Close the achievement equity gap in student success.
  • Increase the number of students prepared to meet immediate and future industry demands.
  • Enhance employee engagement and contributions to student success.
  • Optimize current resources while gaining new revenue to better serve students and communities.

The Guided Pathways work constitutes an integrated, system-wide transformation of our institution’s structures, practices, policies and procedures.

Overview of Guided Pathways:

Guided Pathways is an evidence-based, comprehensive redesign that helps students identify their educational and career goals, determine their needs, and then chart a clear, coherent pathway to timely goal completion. Students begin their pathway by taking courses shared among broadly related areas of study, allowing for early career exploration, contextualized learning, and meaningful connections. Guided Pathways provides a holistic learning experience that includes intentionally sequenced courses, predictable schedules, recognizable milestones, and ongoing integrated support services.

Components of Guided Pathways:

  • Structured, educationally coherent program maps that align with students’ goals for careers and further education
  • Early intake mechanisms for students to explore careers, choose a program of study, and develop an academic plan based on program maps created by faculty and advisors
  • Exploratory programs or career clusters that students enter upon intake that allow guided exploration in a field of study before they pick a specific program pathway
  • Predictable schedules across all Maricopa colleges based on analysis of courses students need to progress on their plans
  • Practices informed by developmental education research that holistically help all students explore academic and career options from the beginning of their college experience, and align math and other foundation skills coursework with a student’s program of study
  • Integrated developmental education practices including embedded academic and non-academic support throughout the student experience, and contextualized instruction to build academic and non-academic foundation skills in all courses
  • Holistic, embedded and ongoing academic advising that deliberately connects students to the institution and to the program of study
  • Monitoring structures for students and academic advisors to ensure that students are progressing along their program path and mechanisms for intervention when students fall off their pathway
  • Program-level learning outcomes that are aligned with the requirements for success in employment and further education in a given field and that are assessed to improve the effectiveness of instruction across programs
  • High school and other feeder curriculum designed to prepare students to enter college programs in particular fields 

Guided Pathways is Not:

  • Just another initiative – it is a long-term, transformational reform effort that will impact all areas of the institution
  • Arranging existing curriculum onto maps alone – program maps are an essential first step, but they need to be implemented with all of the other components of the model to be effective
  • Something that can be planned and executed by a small group of institutional or district leaders – it will require engagement at all levels from all 10 Maricopa colleges and the district
  • Already in the implementation phase at Maricopa – the planning process has just begun being implemented only at selected Maricopa institutions; it will be implemented at scale, across the district
  • Without a research foundation and examples of successful practice – national research and institutional examples will be shared across the district as the work begins this spring

How MCCCD Stakeholders will be Engaged in Guided Pathways Implementation:

Maricopa has contracted with the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement (NCII) for AY2018-2019 and AY2019-2020 to support the scaled implementation of guided pathways across the district. NCII, in collaboration with MCCCD Guided Pathways cross-functional teams, will hold six Guided Pathways Institutes. These institutes are based on the AACC Pathways project ( and state-based replication efforts in Texas and California. The curriculum will be tailored to the specific needs of the MCCCD colleges, but will follow a similar path to the nationally validated efforts. NCII will also conduct four college site visits for each MCCCD college, and district office, in 2018 and 2019 to help support the implementation efforts at each institution, meeting each college where it is in the implementation process.

In collaboration with the district office, cross-college, cross-functional teams will coordinate to advance the Guided Pathways design, components, and implementation that will impact all ten colleges. The structure and timeline for these teams are still being developed and will be communicated in early 2018. The guided pathways steering team is also working with NCII to develop district-wide stakeholder engagement and communication plans. The MCCCD community will work together to successfully implement this work on behalf of its students and all voices will need to be heard during the implementation process.

Maricopa Community Colleges is committed to transparency and open dialogue as we move forward with this important work. A transformation website has been created so you can stay up-to-date on our progress:

We also encourage feedback throughout this process and have established an email account solely for you to share questions, comments, and ideas about this transformation: