Getting higher ed turned around

Anytime it's time for a change, there are two directions we can pursue. Imagine you're standing inside a huge elastic band. You can stretch the elastic by pushing against it or you can move in the opposite direction which meets no resistance. You can predict which change will snap back into it's former position and which will naturally endure. These two kinds of change have been called oscillation and transformation. They represent the difference between getting nowhere quickly and getting somewhere slowly.

Higher ed has been stretching the elastic band since the end of the second World War. It's been heading in the wrong direction while thinking it's making major progress toward lasting reforms. Whenever we individually or collectively push for foolish changes, there are many patterns which become increasingly evident to outside observers while we're enamored with our struggles. To others watching us stretch the elastic band, we appear to be:

  1. throwing the baby out with the bath water instead of nurturing what is precious in our immediate presence
  2. fighting uphill battles against adversity instead of letting beneficial victories fall into place
  3. trying to become someone we're not instead of mastering the fulfillment our deeply satisfying destiny
  4. functioning as our own worst enemy instead of correcting our misguided sense of opportunities and necessities
  5. over promising, over thinking and over spending instead of finding balanced proportions for each pursuit of excellence
  6. inadvertently creating more problems, enemies and outsiders instead of building solutions, alliances and communities
  7. convinced by the resistance to change that we're headed in the right direction instead of realizing our situation calls for our turnaround 

For higher ed to achieve its much-needed turnaround, it needs to call off misguided educational reforms. It needs to perceive how many of its change efforts are doomed to chronic oscillation. It must stop trying to be something other than its true calling.

When higher ed gets turned around, it will deliver more value for the money spent. The completion rate will improve as fewer students get driven to drop out, lose ambition and adopt negative self concepts. The current trend of soaring tuition and fees will be reversed for institutions who have escaped their elastic bands. Those institutions which find these ways to transform with ease will be:
  • providing students with higher quality higher educations
  • nurturing their faculty in diverse scholarly pursuits
  • empowering the campus personnel to find better solutions
  • validating the student services' ways of helping students mature
  • coordinating efforts between academic silos to prevent the abuse of students
  • revising the use of class time, assignments and group projects
  • managing the administration with more listening and continual learning
None of these changes will occur by "change efforts" or "consulting interventions". The transformations will come about naturally by each participant in the institution doing what feels right and intrinsically rewarding. The awareness of impacting many others will give each a sense of how much, when and which option to pursue. The permission to realize outcomes with ease will avoid the pitfalls of false directions and flawed strategies. Most of the much-needed improvements will fall into place amidst widespread cooperation, collaboration and creativity.

Note: This post addresses issue: 4. Calling a halt to reform efforts
of the 15 Issues in the reform of higher ed.

No comments:

Post a Comment