A revolution in teaching and learning?*
Has a lot of rhetoric been expended on a potential revolution in
teaching and learning? Yes. Have public policies emerged to require
or invite improved student learning? Yes. Are numerous teaching
innovations being undertaken? Some. What initiated and sustains
these activities? Probably external pressures and a few people in
higher education devoted to the improvement of teaching. With all
this activity, why should we be so agnostic about a teaching and
learning revolution? Because there are few serious incentives to
improve the quality of learning and because improving the quality
of learning is exceedingly difficult. There are no silver bullets!
Let's face it, there is no large-scale, serious movement to improve the quality of teaching in higher education. The claims that new technology is dramatically altering the way students learn and the ways professors teach are overstated, a cross between naïve and self-serving. If you believe them, there are a lot of other things I would like to sell you. There are, nonetheless, tremendous concerns about the quality of what students are learning, the 'value-added' by colleges or universities to what students already know. With conflicts erupting over how high tuition should be in the context of universities and colleges needing more money and students (and their families) angry at costs, issues of value-added and knowledge gained are on the table. Something is happening; we just do not know exactly what the something is.
Rumblings about the quality of teaching and learning began as a sidebar to the economic difficulties and caustic criticisms of higher education during the 1980s. Critics saw higher education as a poorly run industry, fiscally irresponsible and managerially inefficient, and they focused on organizational restructuring and ways to constrain expenses. In the jargon of the day, well-run organizations require efficient structures, strong leadership, and cost containment. Teach
* A prior version was co-authored with Ursula Wagener and Nichole Shu-
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Higher Education and the American Dream: Success and Its Discontents. Contributors: Marvin Lazerson - Author. Publisher: Central European University Press. Place of publication: Budapest. Publication year: 2010. Page number: 147.
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