Date of Award

Fall 11-11-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Tod A. Burnett

Second Advisor

Timothy McCarty

Third Advisor

Alan Enomoto


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative multicase study was to describe what California community college counselors consider important elements of guided pathways that increase student success. Additionally, this study will explore how counselors describe the challenges of guided pathways. Lastly, this study identified counselor recommendations for improving guided pathways to increase student success.

Methodology: This qualitative study used a multiple-case study to explore what important guided pathway features California community colleges offer students from the counselor’s perspective. Semi-structured interviews were held with 12 counselors from six California community colleges that have implemented guided pathways on their campuses to capture rich data regarding guided pathways. Additionally, archival records and documentation were used to triangulate the data.

Findings: Research question one covered important elements of guided pathways. The findings showed six major themes: provide student supports or wraparound services, have strong communication with students, provide specialized or embedded counseling, offer communities, offer clear options, and use a student-centered approach. Research question two covered challenges of guided pathways from the counselor perspective. The three major themes were lack of administrative support, getting started with the process, and misconceptions or outdated beliefs. The final research question asked counselors about recommendations for improving guided pathways to increase student success. Three themes were identified: have strong communication, involve all staff, and show data.

Conclusions: Examination of key findings resulted in seven conclusions. Colleges should have strong student support wraparound services, have strong communication with students, colleges should offer specialized or embedded counseling, high school outreach is critical, colleges should have a strong career focus, strong faculty engagement, and strong leadership.

Recommendations: The study of California community colleges as they relate to guided pathway features from the counselor perspectives is relatively unexplored, and there are recommendations to conduct further research to broaden the scope and add to the body of literature available. The recommendations for action for colleges as they design and implement guided pathways in their institutions are improve counseling, invest in high school outreach, and offer strong student support services.