Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below is an excerpt from a forthcoming article, "The
Campaign Approach to Change: Targeting the University's Scarcest
Resources," that will appear in Change, the journal of the American
Association for Higher Education. The article is by Larry Hirschhorn
and Linda May, of the Center for Applied Research, Inc. The excerpt
is one of a number of mini-case studies appearing in the article that
illustrate the use of campaigns as a way of mobilizing resources and
personnel for improvement in education.
The article is copyrighted ?2000 The Center for Applied Research,
Inc., and reprinted with permission. For further information please
contact: Jessica J. Geiben Lynn, Associate, Center for Applied
UP NEXT: No, UNext Isn't the "Anti-University"
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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"STUDENTS ACHIEVING" - A CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE THE WAY STUDENTS LEARN
John Strassburger, president of Ursinus College, used the idea of a
"campaign" to change the way faculty teach and students learn. The
newly appointed president and his team framed a theme of "Students
Achieving." This theme focused attention on new ways students can
show their mastery of a subject.
Higher-education professionals have inherited a method of teaching
based on lectures, exams, papers and grades. To demonstrate
competence, students must pass exams and write term papers. However,
if we reframe mastery as the capacity to perform, to do something,
then we need to develop a richer array of methods and venues for
students to display their competence. As many educators have
suggested, such performances can take the form, for example, of
publishing, participating in research conferences, consulting to a
social agency, exhibiting art, staging a play, designing a Web page,
or developing a database. With these forms of achievement, people
other than the professor - journal editors or community leaders, for
example - evaluate the student's performance.
Faced with the need to perform for a wider audience and thus
experience greater risks and stakes, students master more skills.
Similarly, faculty, who also feel accountable to these wider
audiences, change their practices to ensure good student performance.
With this focus on achievement, students will increasingly evaluate
one another's work, faculty will coach them on a broader range of
skills (such as presentation and project management), and the
classroom will take on the quality of charrette or studio where
students and faculty together evaluate works in progress. Employers
will consider evidence of such performances much more seriously than
they would reported grades. The performances begin to speak for
Having settled on the theme of "Students Achieving," Ursinus College
deliberately chose not to use the conventional machinery of strategic
planning - task forces with balanced representation and formal
reports - to advance the concept. These tools, Ursinus' leaders felt,
were limited because they require the development of comprehensive
plans before people fully understand what it is they hope to
accomplish. Moreover, strategic planning draws its legitimacy from
traditional participants, often precluding unsung faculty and
students who are actually changing their practice and could take up
effort to change teaching and learning. Instead, the "Students
Achieving" campaign became influential not through exhortation but
The president and his team launched a number of initiatives. They
eliminated the summer school and compensated faculty for lost income
by increasing their salaries. The goal was to create time for faculty
to display their own mastery through publication, research and other
venues in the belief that you cannot increase student achievement
unless you increase faculty achievement.
The college created summer fellowships for students to work
one-on-one with faculty, who are paid to supervise the work. About 15
percent of the rising senior class currently receive these stipends
to do scholarly work full time for eight weeks in the summer before
their senior year. The fellowships have created higher expectations
among students and faculty about what is possible for undergraduates
to achieve. They have been enormously attractive to prospective
students and to donors.
The school hosted a student research conference with sister colleges.
It gave departments money to start student journals. It launched an
occasional paper series to explore the new approaches to teaching and
learning. These papers have been immensely popular with alumni and
create a context in which the college can seek funds from alumni to
support the learning initiatives.
In thinking about these initiatives as part of a "campaign," the
president and the people who work with him now view all events as
opportunities to underline the key theme. Instead of creating new
forums or venues, they piggyback on current ones. For example, the
college now features student presentations on Homecoming and Parents'
Day. The college turned the customary "state-of-the-university"
convocation into a summer conference to showcase teaching innovations.
After two years of the campaign, the faculty voted overwhelmingly to
institute a requirement that all students successfully complete some
form of independent learning. The college made student achievement
the focus of its reaccreditation, and the visiting team reported that
what they found academically was "inspired" and "inspiring."