Ideas from Innovative University

“Our challenge is radical reformation” (219).

I am reading through Christensen and Eyring’s The Innovative University. Here are some of the more important notes I took from pages 25-225 and my comments on them.

Innovation: Any student, regardless of classification, could take any course–as long as s/he had prerequisites. (57)

I like this idea. I think that we have mostly moved to this model, but if we haven’t, I think we should.

No Knowledge of Professions:
One iteration of Harvard resulted in students graduating “with no direct knowledge of the professions” (57).

What would work? Internships for writing and research for English? I would like to work on that.

Teaching Instruction:
This would be a good book to have TAs read and discuss prior to teaching.

Westminster (67,68)
compete on basis of quality
raise faculty salaries
add new buildings
student-centered vision of excellence
shifted paradigm from teaching learning using
–measurable college-wide goals
–active, collaborative learning

The president of Westminster, Bassis, said “high-tech/high-touch… is a model that may help many brick-and-mortar institutions increase both their quality and affordability” (qtd 68).

The religious orientation of (LDS) Ricks College led to value-laden curriculum, high social cohesion, and limited discipline problems (79).

I think we’ve been there.

Partial summer opportunity: (at Ricks) led to
more students served
lower cost per student (79)

I like the idea of trying to do summer more.
Block-tuition payment moves us there.
We have to offer required courses in the summer.
Consider cohort effect of summer classes for students enrolling early (summer before fall of freshman year).

“[C]ourse offerings were limited by faculty vacations, making the value of studying in the summer less than advertised” (165).

One issue with Ricks was the professors’ pay. It was held to the same for all professors and so folks didn’t stick around, since they could get better jobs other places. Those who did stay may indeed have stayed for the vacations, since scholarship was not required.

Removing Tenure:
The authors of the book said that Ricks’ lack of tenure led to teaching-oriented faculty, lower costs, and limited scholarly notoriety (79).

I think no tenure leads to instability of faculty, possibility of rapid change (either good or bad), also possible problems with accreditation. (Re: another college I attended and SACS)

President Lowell of Harvard did a research study and found that students were studying less than the faculty thought (81). I’d want to see how the study was done, but it sounds like a good idea.

Lowell recreated collegiality at Harvard by adding dorms and creating “scholars in residence” positions where faculty live in the dorms. This is what UofH has done. I’m not sure I would want to live in a campus dorm, but I think it has the potential to be rewarding.

Extension School: of Harvard
night classes for the community (85)
generated goodwill and incremental income (86)
can be offered online (86)

Breadth in Education:
A liberal [arts] education “aims at producing men who know a little of everything and something well” (Lowell, qtd 88).

This “proved difficult to achieve” (88).

Three challenges to creating breadth:

  1. course creation for uninterested students is difficult
  2. courses were trying to introduce the whole of the discipline (88)
  3. good teachers and scholars did not want to teach the introductory courses (89)

Teaching Track?

“read teaching [was] … delegated to assistants” (82)
This happened at R1s because of the issue of scholarship. Do we want scholars or teachers? We reward scholarship, so we get more scholarship.

How can we reward teaching?

I don’t want online offerings to be “delegated to assistants.” I was thinking perhaps non-tenture track lines, but having more folks who are non-tt means that the tt folks have proportionally more responsibility for committees and service, which also continues to move them away from scholarship.

Idea (written before I went farther in the reading than page 86):
Second track where good teaching is rewarded.
Scholarship of teaching and learning is the focus.
Best practices are shared.
–“Good teaching” cannot be simply defined by student evaluations.

R1s (and scholarship-encouraging institutions) are operating on knowledge discovery “solution shop” AND instruction of students, “value-adding process” (90). “Harvard operates two fundamentally different enterprises under a single corporate roof” (181).

“[T]eaching requires expertise and judgment, it is repetitive, so it can be embedded in standardized curriculum and delivered at reasonably high quality by teachers with less subject matter expertise and scholarly intuition” (90).

This is at least part of the reason why English has non-tt teaching faculty here.

However, it may encourage a two-tier system where PhDs and scholars are at the top and “teaching faculty” are at the bottom. At R1s these are often three-year contracts and those filling these can never become tenured.

Good schools should have a strong record/reputation of teaching.

“the research emphasis… inevitably drew attention away from the classrooms” (115)

“Harvard graduate students and junior faculty, the workhorses of undergraduate instruction, labored under the [accurate] apprehension that, when tenure time came, they would need to find other employment…” (116).

I think summer vacation issues is one reason that creating a “teaching track” might work. Teaching professors would teach two summer classes every summer, but not have any scholarship required. (See p. 165.)

“Because higher pay went to those (at Harvard) with stronger research credentials, teaching and administrative service to the institution could be (and was) seen as financial and even career-threatening liabilities” (175). The parentheses information is mine.

A “culture of tolerance of poor teaching” grew at Harvard (176).

The authors say that the “problem stemmed … from a lack of data on instructional quality” (176). I don’t think this is probably true. I think since teaching wasn’t valued, there was no data on instructional quality.

“divided attention and divided loyalty” due to teaching, publication, grant-writing, service, etc (177)

“By Bok’s time (pres. of Harvard beginning 1971), some scholars considered undergraduate education a diversion from a research university’s central mission” (180).

In the 2005 Carnegie Report, “no attempt is made to measure the quality of what institutions do” (197).

“These schools [those trying to be R1s or move up Carnegie ladder] also suffer to varying degrees from the instructional quality problems… Their undergraduate students encounter more lectures than interactive learning experiences, more part-time and graduate student instructors than tenured professors” (197).

THIS is one way that ACU is exceptional. It is one way that I think ACU’s education is far superior to other universities’ educational offerings. This is something our students don’t necessarily know. (Though I have made a point of telling my freshmen.)

“… the preferred model [R1] … is … encouraged by the … accrediting organizations, academic professional associations, publishers, …” (198).

“Professors originally hired [to teach] … may shoulder more than their share of the teaching load [when the school moves towards a higher Carnegie ranking]” (201).

Lowell (pres. of Harvard) was the one who created the idea of a grading curve where C’s were the predominate grade. (92) And C’s had been the “gentleman’s grade” at Harvard, but that became A’s (93).

Read Excellence Without a Soul by Harry Lewis. Book on grade inflation at Harvard, shows the downsides of promoting excellence through grades.

I believe that the UG Research idea is a move away from promoting excellence through grades.

Spirituality v. Secularism:
Ricks held on to their LDS values. “In this respect, Ricks eschewed an element of traditional university DNA, the tendency to secularism, which first took hold in Harvard in the 1700s” (107).

LDS leading chemist Henry Eyring (great- or grandfather of author) said: “There is a need for added spirituality, of the kind that leads to brotherhood, to go hand in hand with the scientific progress of our kind” (107).

I agree with this.

“The gradual loss of shared [spiritual] values [at Harvard] proved especially costly in the humanities, where knowledge advances via scholarly dialogue rather than the repeatable experiments of the natural sciences” (182).

Ricks’ goal was to “impact the entire Church and its membership worldwide” (225).

“Ironically, a general education curriculum that was too rigid and too difficult to deliver for Harvard students and faculty became the standard for American high schools” (127).

High-growth categories of students:

  1. “at-risk” students (128), needing remediation (204)
    –We have decided not to work with these students much at ACU. We have a one-semester course that is stretched to two semesters for them, but that is all the in-place remediation. We do have the Writing Center and tutorials, etc, but not much in the way of remedial classes anymore.
  2. those paying more than they want (204)
  3. those who can’t afford to go to college (204)

Decisions Harvard made that authors thought were “fateful”:

  1. pedagogy in place that presumes f2f classes (lectures)
  2. abandonment of the confluence of values and rationality (135)

C. Roland Christensen said: “Every student teaches and every teacher learns” (161).
“Because students relate to one another as peers, they can often communicate more effectively than the instructor in class” (162).
“Faith is the most important ingredient in good teaching practice.”
“What my students become is as important as what they learn” (162).


“Even before the market collapse, the university had been living on the edge of its financial means” (189).

“Schools most at risk are the more than 700 … that grant graduate degrees but are not among the 200 elite research institutions identified by the Carnegie Foundation” (195).

“The costs of Carnegie climbing go beyond the loss of unique institutional identity and of focus on the constituencies, especially undergraduates, that institutions were originally chartered to serve” (196).

“[W]hen resources are tight … we must make real, strategic decisions about academic direction” (204).

“institutional and individual frugality … not only financially commendable but also a source of advantage in ‘turbulent times'” (234).

Questions Colleges Need to Ask:
What students will we serve?
What subject matter will we emphasize?
What types of scholarship will we pursue? (198)

Four-year Degree:
Harvard students still get out in 4 years.
Only 35% of students finish in 4 years.
Only 55% finish in 6. (203)

WGU Innovations:
Western Governors’ University

2 innovations:

  1. allows students to learn at own pace
  2. competency-based approach to certification

Full-time faculty specify what a student should know.
Ft faculty develop reliable tests of that knowledge.
Then they license the curriculum from publishers whose support staff help students learn enough to gain certificaton (210).

Ricks College Innovations:

“All students were required to take at least one online class to graduate” (225).

“‘[F]ast track’ majors with emphasis on highly enrolled ones, which would allow a student to make progress to graduation … during traditional summer breaks” (225).

Things I May Not Agree With:
“College education gets more expensive, but it does not get better” (203).
“inherent unprofitability of the collegiate enterprise necessitates restricted enrollment” (134)
pedagogy in place that presumes f2f classes–lectures (135)
The problem of “a culture of tolerance” for poor teaching “stemmed … from a lack of data on instructional quality” (176).

Is this what we want to do?
“Set goals so high that we cannot imagine achieving the results through our existing processes” (Bednar, president, Ricks College, qtd. 225).

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