In May I had the pleasure of speaking at a lively TEDx conference titled “Reimagining Liberal Education” at my alma mater, Lawrence University. This post attempts to distill—in a form mercifully free from unplanned digressions and balky PowerPoint slides—the key contention that I advanced in my talk, titled “A Midsummer Night’s Dreamliner, or, Shakespeare Saves the 787.” The “director’s cut” (with bonus content!) is available here.
Two common claims against liberal education target its excessive cost and inefficiency. There is no way to hide the price of doing things in small batches, whether it’s making gin or educating undergraduates. The human ingredients of a liberal education are inherently expensive and the process is time-consuming, and when you add physical infrastructure and allow a measure of unpredictability in the outcome, the cost and efficiency propositions seem vulnerable indeed.
A visit to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W) brought me back to an idea from my first LEAP blog post: LEAP frameworks can support connections between school and college. Now, as we all know, it’s one thing to say this, another to make it real. We know the potential, and we know how hard it is to achieve. But just imagine: we could build connections for students and for educators, using the consensus language of LEAP to define learning outcomes and assessment across the divide between high school and college. LEAP could, for example, be used to set outcomes for senior projects that prepare students for college. High-effort work in grade 12 could engage students and reclaim some of the “lost” senior year. Who knows? We might even use the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs) specifically to guide learning within teacher education itself. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama’s recent speeches and proposals focused on college access, completion, and costs have generated much media coverage and commentary about what the “value” of our higher education institutions actually is and needs to be in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue has skipped right over the indispensable and uniquely American value placed on the humanities as an essential component of quality in higher education. Read the rest of this entry »
By Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at American University’s School of International Service (SIS). This is the second post in a series of reflections generated by the process of undergraduate curricular reform at the SIS. The first post in the series can be found here.
International studies is a broad and diverse field; the subject can be approached from a variety of disciplines, and especially in our unevenly globalized era, defining firm boundaries for the subject is nigh upon impossible. When I became associate dean of American University’s School of International Service (SIS) in July 2012, our undergraduate course offerings were literally all over the map: we had a plethora of engaging courses that had been developed by members of the faculty trying to keep up with recent developments and pressing global issues, but not much firm curricular structure holding everything together. As a result, student experiences were widely varied and highly individualized. The challenge that we faced was trying to bring sufficient order to our diverse offerings that students could be connected to opportunities that would afford them opportunities for growth, but to do so without imposing a strict conformity that would raise barriers to students trying to find their own truest vocations. Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this summer the US Supreme Court excised Section 5, a major piece of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that sets up the framework for the act’s provision of equitable voting practices in certain areas of the country that have had historically unfair and discriminatory procedures regulating voting. The controversial decision is accompanied by a whole suite of disheartening state legislation involving voting districting, registration, and eligibility that seems to undercut the crucial advances in voting rights laws of the last fifty years. One local example is Virginia’s recent law requiring third-party individuals and groups to undergo state-run training before they can disperse voter registration forms or assist individuals in the process. While laws such this one may seem like a precautionary measure for making voting registration fairer and smoother, they also serve as a hurdle for community groups and student organizations attempting to help community members register to vote. And according to a report by the Brenner Center for Justice, the populations most likely to be registered by those grassroots efforts are people of color and lower-income Americans. Read the rest of this entry »
By Peter Ewell, Vice President at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
Increasing the proportion of young citizens with a college credential has become a major national goal, and the need to do so is prominent in today’s political rhetoric. The case for doing so is almost always economic—higher personal incomes, increased tax revenues, and greater worker productivity. The resulting “commodification of college” rankles many of us because, raised as scholars, we tend to see higher learning as more broadly beneficial. More importantly, the narrowly economic argument about rates of return leads many observers to misleadingly label college majors such as English or anthropology as “dead ends” and advise students to avoid them. Even if one sticks with a purely economic argument, statements like this about the “worth” of traditional liberal arts and sciences majors are overblown at best. But there also are other concrete benefits of completing a college degree that go far beyond these strictly economic benefits. And higher education leaders and practitioners should focus on these other benefits more frequently—and in a proactive rather than defensive way. Let me briefly mention three of them. Read the rest of this entry »
This guest blog was written by Ashley Armato, a student in the Master of Science in Higher Education program at Florida International University. Ms. Armato attended AAC&U’s Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Student Success and the Quality Agenda, held April 4–6, 2013, in Miami, Florida, and blogged about her experience.
This blog post is a reflection of her experience attending the conference session “Integrating and Expanding High-Impact Practices Through IUPUI’s RISE to the Challenge Initiative,” delivered by Sarah Baker, associate dean for academic affairs, University College; and Mary Fisher, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of nursing—both of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has implemented the RISE to the Challenge initiative, which aims to institutionalize high-impact practices (HIPs) by requiring students to participate in Research, International, Service, or Experiential learning. The RISE initiative encourages students to develop deeper approaches to learning through involvement in educationally purposeful activities in and out of the classroom and engagement in reflection and analysis. Students are introduced to the RISE initiative during their first-year experience, and required to include at least two of the four RISE components in their coursework.
By Dr. George D. Kuh, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus at Indiana University–Bloomington, and Director, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
Good on Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed for bringing us up to speed on recent developments related to the six-year old Voluntary System Accountability (VSA). Even though much of what we find today in the way of assessment tools and approaches was either being used on college campuses or on the drawing board prior to 2007, the VSA undoubtedly pushed some aspects of the work further along than would have happened if matters were left to individual institutions. This is surely the case with regard to transparency, a feature of public accountability to which I will return to later. Read the rest of this entry »
This guest blog was written by Grace Taylor, a second year student in the Master of Science in Higher Education Program at Florida International University. Ms. Taylor attended AAC&U’s Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Student Success and the Quality Agenda, held April 4–6, 2013 in Miami, Florida, and blogged about her experience.
This blog post is a reflection of her experience attending the plenary presentation, “An Anti-Deficit Approach to Equity, Excellence, and Student Success,” delivered by Shaun Harper, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Read the rest of this entry »
This guest blog post was coauthored by Madeleine F. Green, senior program consultant, and Annie W. Bezbatchenko, program director, both at the Teagle Foundation.
Trying to “make the case” for liberal education is not new. We in higher education often think that if we could just articulate our message more persuasively or more frequently, the public and prospective students would see the light. They would understand that higher education is not just about transmitting information; that workforce preparation is one among many outcomes of a college education; and that the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind acquired through a liberal education will serve students for a lifetime of further learning, work, and productive citizenship. And they would understand why we do things the way we do—why there are certain requirements for a degree, or why professors give the grades that they do.
Yet higher education in general, and liberal education in particular, seems to be losing the battle of persuasion. The high costs and outcomes that may be unclear to the general public, coupled with the growing inclination to measure the success of a college education in terms of immediate earning power, suggest that we need some new strategies. A potential group of powerful spokespersons for a liberal education is students themselves. But they are not always able to do this, especially during their college years. If their education is to be truly meaningful, students should be able to see and communicate the value of liberal education while they are experiencing it. To do this, they would need to have a coherent picture of a curriculum and understand how the pieces fit together. Read the rest of this entry »