Innovative U: Beginning Notes

Reading The Innovative University by Christensen and Eyring.

I am going to take some notes here.

To a significant degree, colleges and universities have become expensive as a result of attempting to attract the most capable and discerning student-customers, not because of trying to accomodate employees. (xxi) The traditional university is still indispensable. Mastering the challenges and opportunities presented by a fast-paced, global society requires more than just basic technical skill and cognitive competence. Young college students in particular need an environment in which they can not only study but also broaden their horizons and simply “grow up.” (xxiii) [I]t is no longer as important (xxiii) to evidence educational capacity via brick-and-mortar facilities and PhD-trained faculty as to demonstrate student learning. (xxiv)

This last I actually disagree with. I think the argument that this statement alludes to is that PhD folks aren’t important in the new-world-order of higher education. I don’t think that is true–or I don’t think it should be true. I believe that the value-added by PhD professors (folks who have thought long and hard about their fields) is significant, even in an innovatively-disrupted future for higher education.

A disruptive innovation… disrupts the bigger-and-better cycle by bringing to market a product or service that is not as good as the best traditional offerings but is more affordable and easier to use. (xxiv)

Ah, here again, I disagree. I think that online learning (which they reference immediately afterwards) can actually be just as good, even though more affordable. “Easier to use” is a judgment call and I would argue that technology is easier to use in some ways (accessible from even remote areas) but not in others (requires personal discipline that an hour in class 3x a week helps develop).

I also think that some f2f classes (mine, for instance) offers the tutorials and discussion boards that the authors deny match with f2f classes.

[I]nstitutions of higher education must develop strategies that transcend imitation. They must also master the disruptive technology of online learning and make other innovations. (xxvi)

Problem with this statement? I’m looking for rhetorical analysis here. 1. Says cannot imitate. 2. Says must imitate.

What does this mean?

For me, it means the credibility of the authors just dropped a little bit.

…to thrive they must build on what they have always done best. (xxvi)

Two things done well: caring and professional teaching.

What I think that means we need to do is create a system (of online learning, since that seems to be the focus of the book) that takes advantage of those two things.

They (BYU-Idaho) defined scholarship unusually broadly, to include and even emphasize the scholarship of learning. (xxviii)

“competency-based instruction” (xxix)
I like this idea. Students test through subjects and move forward as they learn (or as they show proficiency already obtained). I think our freshman would be shocked–shocked!–by how little they know if we did a proficiency-based movement for classes.

Times of terror and deepest misery may be in the offing. But if any happiness at all is to be extracted from that misery, it can only be a spiritual happiness…-Hermann Hesse

I’ve worried about that possibility myself.

History of movies in the classroom began with German immigrant DeVry (9).

Lectures, for example, were augmented with computer graphics, bu tte lecture itself persisted in its fundamental form. (18)

Podcasts = lectures
Is this bad? Or does the fact that students can download them and listen while they drive or run or play frisbee make a difference?

Until now, American higher education has largely regulated itself, to great effect. US universities are among the most lightly regulated by government. They are free to choose what discoveries to pursue and what subjects to teach, without concern for economic or political agendas. Responsibly exercised, this freedom is a great intellectual and competitive advantage. (19)

I like this. Not sure how likely it is to continue, but I like the fact that they say it is a good thing.

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
–e-portfolios

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).

Grades:
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).

FYI:
“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).

Finances:

“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).

Publishing Advice

I remember (and have recently re-read) the post where I wrote that I knew I needed to get published and that I should be writing and that I had no idea how to do those things. Trial and error teaches a lot–at least to some people.

Recently I explained that “life long learner” means I have to keep re-learning the same things in different ways. 🙂

That said, there was a good post on the CHE about what publishing means for a lot of places. Even though I am not in one of those places and do not want to be, I know that I am behind in publishing and presenting. Certainly if you use the metrics of the post I am behind (as in, I never got there).

While it does not apply to me per se, there are many nuggets of wisdom hidden in the carefully sifted advice. (Now I am thinking of chocolate chips and brownies for some reason.) Without further ado, advice from the brilliant at the CHE:

You have a special challenge in that you need to keep up a publication record as if you were at an R1 while coping with a heavy teaching load.  The model I was taught to aim for was 2-2-4: two articles and two smaller pieces every year, and a book every four years.  Now, I actually think most people fall short of that.  But if you want to move, you’d want to aim for an equivalent of that, in the most streamlined and efficient way.  The first advice I’d give is to drop the second “2” — the smaller pieces (generally book reviews, can also be encyclopedia entries or whatnot).  Those are a luxury.  The articles and books are the most important.  So here are the rules as I see them:

1. Piggyback your current research on your last research.  Use the same kind of materials, but viewed from a different angle or expanded.  You can see the prolific scholars doing this already.  For instance, the first book will be about Lincoln’s White House staff, using the appropriate archives.  The second book will be about women in Lincoln’s White House, using the same archives.  The third book will be about Lincoln’s ideas of hierarchy, using the same archives. In every case, pick only an idea that’s interesting to you, but pick strategically.  Also pick something in which you don’t have to embark on a whole new set of secondary reading.

2. Don’t put every single thing you learn and think on the subject in the book.  Save self-contained nuggets of findings for separate articles.  For my last book, I finished the book and then wrote a spin-off article in three days. I had all the quotations right in front of me and knew the material so thoroughly that it just flew onto the page. If you can get four or five extra articles out of your book, that would be excellent.  Don’t feel the need to jam it all in; use this to plant articles in good journals.

3. Make every piece of writing earn its keep.  Don’t publish in edited collections; they count for less on the CV. Submit every article to a top-tier journal and work your way down the food chain. Position your book for the top presses.  Don’t make my mistake and give your book to lower-tier presses just because they ask for it and you think, “Phew! Someone will publish this!”  Try all the top-tier presses first.

4. Find the CVs of the top people in your field and keep tabs on them. Keep track of how you measure up. 

5. Minimize the busywork your job asks for as much as possible.  Where possible, give assignments that are swift to grade; streamline teaching prep; keep extensive records so you don’t have to redesign your classes every year. 
Then try to get in 90 minutes of academic writing every workday; 45 minutes should be your minimum.  Don’t save it all up for a long weekend stint, which may or may not be possible when the time comes.  The research shows that the most prolific people write for shorter periods and often.

6. Take Sundays off; ideally Saturdays too.  Do not stay up working till midnight.  Burning yourself out won’t get the job done and also makes the job not worth doing.  Your goal is to work smart, not exhaustively.

Best of luck!

hegemony. “Re: Posting Hall of Fame–Reply 2409.” chronicle.com,9 March 2011, www.chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,30991.2400.html.

T&P Portfolio

For the next little while my uni is doing the tenure and promotion portfolio online.

My boss said the essay for teaching should be about 20 pages. Mine is 84.

Scholarship is supposed to be 5-7. Mine is 35.

Service is supposed to be 5-7. Mine is 32.

No wonder they moved them online, since they were getting so bulky. Right now my t&p is 173 pages long…

Hmmm. My teaching portion is only 4x as long as they said, while my scholarship is 5x as long. Maybe I need to expand my teaching section.

Note: I went to the CHE fora and found that other SLACs have 500-1000 pages. Maybe I am missing something.

A Class on How to Live Wisely

I would take that!

I would also love to teach it.

“How to Live Wisely” in the New York Times

A number of campuses have recently started to offer an opportunity for students to grapple with these questions. On my campus, Harvard, a small group of faculty members and deans created a noncredit seminar called “Reflecting on Your Life.” The format is simple: three 90-minute discussion sessions for groups of 12 first-year students, led by faculty members, advisers or deans. Well over 100 students participate each year.

Then Richard J. Wright describes the 5 exercises.

Maybe we should have this class for 50-somethings.

Tenure and Promotion Portfolio

Eight days ago a senior colleague told me that my portfolio was due this year. The deadline for that is tomorrow.

So I stayed up late and worked on it and got up early and worked on it.

Then I found out that, no, it is not due until 2016. However, I thought that since I had already started it, I should just keep going.

My goal was to get it finished by the time it was due and then send it to some folks for review.

While it is not perfect, I think it is much improved over last year. I certainly took the recommendations to heart and worked on significant improvements.

So today I sent the link to folks to have them look at it. Hopefully it will be what people were looking for. (I thought it was last year when I did my pre-tenure review, but it wasn’t.)

Medical School Lures English Majors

NPR on May 27, 2015 has a story by Julie Rovner on a medical school revamping requirements to lure English majors.

Dr. David Muller is Mount Sinai’s dean for medical education. One wall of his cluttered office is a massive whiteboard covered with to-do tasks and memorable quotations. One quote reads: “Science is the foundation of an excellent medical education, but a well-rounded humanist is best suited to make the most of that education.”

At first it is about Mount Sinai’s own program. Eventually, however, they get to the relevant parts for non-Mount Sinai students:

The effort has worked so well, in fact, that Mount Sinai is expanding it, opening it to students in any major from any college or university. Eventually half the class will be admitted via a slightly reconfigured program, which has a new name: FlexMed.

The more often you tell me, the less I believe

Okay, I don’t think this should be applied to “I love you,” but other than that, yeah, I am starting to be a believer.

The more you tell me that “everything is awesome” and “we will have some storms,” the more I am sure the boat is leaking and a hurricane is coming.

Just saying.

Rhetoric of everyday.