Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Change?

In an interview with Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, Dee Fink shares his ideas for why the "traditional" approaches to teaching, which have for long (centuries, even) served society well, are no longer the best ways to teach.

His two reasons:
The first is all the evidence, using multiple criteria, that we are not currently doing a good job in higher education.  One of these is a study by Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University.  He did some careful research on how well American students were achieving eight kinds of learning we would all like to see in college graduates, e.g., how to communicate, how to think, how to live with diversity, preparing for a global society, etc.  His conclusion for all eight kinds of learning was the same:  Students are achieving each of these desirable kinds of learning to a degree but nowhere near what they could be and should be achieving.
And secondly:
The second source of concern is the new kinds of learning that are being identified as important in the 21st century.  AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) recently asked a major set of civic and corporate leaders what kinds of learning they thought were essential today.  They identified, among others: Information literacy, teamwork and problem solving abilities, intercultural knowledge and competence, ethical reasoning, integrative learning, preparing for lifelong learning.
But there is an even more succinct and powerful reason for changing how we teach: Most faculty, Fink claims, already want to change, and so the case in favor of change is one that can be readily digested by college faculty: 
When working with professors, we need to recognize that they obviously do not enjoy seeing disinterested students in their courses, or the evidence of lackluster learning in the final exams.  If we can help them see that new ways of teaching can make dramatic changes in both these situations, it would go a long way toward helping professors take a more positive attitude toward learning about new ways of teaching. 
Read the full interview at the HETL portal, and if you would like to consult more resources, see here, here, and here. (Tip: You can find many online resources about course design at the CFD's social bookmarking site,