Reinventing Higher Education, the Promise of Innovation/Network Theory and Educational Change
Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator
* Wildavsky, Ben, Andrew P. Kelly, and Kevin Carey (eds.) (2011). Reinventing Higher Education, The Promise of Innovation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, pp. 288.
* Daly, Alan J. (ed.) (2010). Social Network Theory and Educational Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, pp. 330.
Journalism and mass communication educators too often neglect the benefits from utilizing pedagogical resources. The editors of Reinventing Higher Education probe a key question:
...why, in spite of a steady increase in the enrollment of nontraditional students, a steep decline in tenured faculty positions, and revolutionary developments in technology that have touched nearly every other part of society, do most universities still operate much as they did fifty years ago? (p. vii)
This turns out to be a challenging question because of the lack of systematic research on innovation and productivity. Enter eight commissioned projects first presented to the American Enterprise Institute in 2010. Clearly, the political forces pressing at the gates of higher education are great - access, global competitiveness, systematic assessment, and cost containment, to name a few. The editors quote a Chronicle of Higher Education piece to amplify the worry that "large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift..." (p. 3). The general criticism can be heard from the Left and Right, perhaps a symptom of the growing disenchantment with all perceived sources of authority. Still, is there room for innovation without a fundamental revision of American higher education? The issue for higher education is presented by these authors as, "Innovation is linked to creativity, risk taking, and experimentation, attributes that are often lacking in large, public or nonprofit organizations" (p. 15).
The book purposely avoids focusing on state and federal funding, as this is seen as most central to elite research institutions. Likewise, regulation and accreditation may identify problem institutions, but these typically are not agents of change: "Accreditation is a model that wants institutions to conform to norms, while new providers, like those in the forprofit world, work against those norms" (p. 28). That leaves lobbying, trade associations, and unions, which the book sees as varying forms of protectionism working against innovation, so defined.
Any faculty member who has attempted to bridge the educational model and the business model of journalism and mass communication quickly experiences a clash of cultures. Internships, for example, may serve differing goals for professors, their students, and providers. Still, the fact that numerous programs across the country developed internship opportunities during the past few decades would seem to challenge the notion that universities are "Old School" representing "Four-Hundred Years of Resistance to Change" (p. 41). The chapter by this title seems to show its bias in the subheading, "CREATING AN INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY-FROM SCRATCH" (p. 68). The goal seems to be one of, "Boosting Academic Productivity" (p. 73). Many campuses have seen iterations of the administrative push for continuous improvement. What is new here is "disruptive innovation" (p. 94). This has an interesting set of characteristics:
* it does things in an entirely new way
* it starts crudely and low on the learning curve
* it appeals to those not well served by the traditional approach
* it is more affordable
* it learns to serve a new market
* it happens under the radar of the traditional (p. 95).
For-profit universities, in other words, have an ability to work around the barriers in traditional higher education.
Such emerging models suggest new roles for professors. At a time when journalism and mass communication are experiencing dramatic change - particularly at newspapers - the idea that we need to change may sound familiar. Whether it is the move to convergence journalism or new methods of storytelling, my sense is that American JMC higher education is not isolated from change and innovation.
Professors and their department heads recognize the signs of change in higher education, including increased use of full-time non-tenure-track faculty (p. Ill), and the implications from new technologies on instruction (p. 115). Still, for many academics, change represented by the University of Phoenix, Capella University, and StraighterLine seems troubling. Yet, the forecast for those of us at traditional institutions is for "increased financial stress, while facing growing pressure to expand enrollments and improve efficiency" (p. 126).
The "deskilling of the professoriate" through increased numbers of term faculty, in the view of Reinventing Higher Education, could "be accompanied by a reskilling of the faculty and may actually increase the amount that students learn" (p. 126). Other opportunities include community college partnerships, which the data show have higher percentages of blacks and Latinos (p. 134). In some areas, particularly those where growth is stagnant, apprenticeships have become popular: "it is certainly reasonable to encourage deeper penetration of the apprenticeship model in current apprenticeship occupations" (p. 149). Although I've witnessed some journalists successfully crack the tough job market of recent years by hanging in there with an apprenticeship-like position, it is not likely that this is a route that large numbers of our graduates can take.
JMC educators are not special in feeling the pressures from outside of departments to develop online courses and reach new markets of students. As the authors conclude, innovation can trigger both optimism and pessimism: "...there is no single blue-print for reinventing American universities" and concede that "some of our very best institutions don't need major changes" (p. 244). Those experimenting with a variety of changes, then, may find reform.
For the authors of Social Network Theory, real educational changes come not from policy shifts, but rather inside the classroom. Rather than focus on legislative mandates or technical reforms, this book shifts "attention to the relational linkages between educators through which these change efforts flow" (p. 1). Collégial support, for example, may have an impact on professionalism and engagement in the field. Social network theory, also valuable in current studies of social media, is one way to visually depict the strength of educational relationships.
In this book, teacher networks, as well as leadership and social networks, help the reader to better understand educational change. Social network analysis uses:
* Similarities: location, membership, and attribute
* Social relations: kinship and other roles
* Mental relations: affective and cognitive
* Flows (p. 19)
Communication scholars will readily see the connection to leadership and opinion leader studies. In a social network analysis, centrality, connection, and commitment are measured to track "school interventions" (p. 51). Curiously, orientations toward innovation are measures that may help administrators assess relational quality:
This set of questions captures teachers' perceptions of whether or not they are continually learning and seeking new ideas and are encouraged to try new ideas in their teaching. High levels indicate that there is a strong orientation toward improvement and a willingness to be part of an active learning environment, (p. 67)
We can also attempt to measure a teacher's willingess to "deprivatize" teaching activities within a learning community, teacher commitment to a school, and trust levels (p. 67). Thus, the theory suggests that attitudes, norms, and intention to change precede behavior in line with educational reforms. The message here is that it will take development of various social networks to produce meaningful reform in higher education. For JMC educators, the combined direction of these books is that change involves complex relationships inside and outside our classrooms. It will not happen overnight.
JEREMY HARRIS LIPSCHULTZ
University of Nebraska at Omaha…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Reinventing Higher Education, the Promise of Innovation/Network Theory and Educational Change. Contributors: Lipschultz, Jeremy Harris - Author. Journal title: Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. Volume: 66. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2011. Page number: 381+. © Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Winter 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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