Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
The posting below is a response to a presentation, "25 YEARS OF
EFFORTS TO IMPROVE TEACHING AND LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A
RETROSPECTIVE AND A LOOK AHEAD, by Marcel Lucien Goldschmid, Chair of
Higher Education, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, given at the
July, 2000, 25th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE on The University of the
Future and the Future of Universities: LEARNER-CENTERED UNIVERSITIES
FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM. The response is by Ulrich Peter Ritter, J.W.
Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main and it offers two very
interesting comments. The first is on the need for much more student
participation in course development, teaching and planning. The
second comment argues that to bring about real improvement in
teaching and learning it is not enough to do good things, we must
also become "power-promoters," and get actively involved on the
institutional and political front.
Let me know if you would like a hard-copy of the paper but Goldschmid.
UP NEXT: Using e-mail to Communicate with Students
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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DISCUSSANT ON 25 YEARS OF EFFORTS TO IMPROVE TEACHING AND LEARNING IN HIGHER
EDUCATION: A RETROSPECTIVE AND A LOOK AHEAD
Ulrich Peter Ritter, J.W. Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main
It is difficult to make critical comments on a paper when you are
impressed by its scope and profundity, and when you find yourself in
(almost) complete agreements with the author in his assessment and
visions. So I am going to limit myself to two comments.
The critical remark will not surprise you coming from me. Marcel
does say that increasing student participation is important in
learning situations as well as the evaluation of teaching by
students. However, in his excellent overview of the many attempts at
Improving University Teaching and Learning, Marcel makes no reference
to student participation in course development, teaching and
planning. I have presented the very encouraging results of my
experiences at several international conferences such as EARDHE
(European Association for Research and Development in Higher
Education) Conference in 1977 in Louvain-la-Neuve, at the
IUT-Conference 1995 in Hong Kong and at the conference on Improving
Student Learning in Oxford in the same year. The echo has been
minimal except that maybe it got me elected to be president of EARDHE
for five years. I think this is not accidental. I ascribe this to
what might be called the "parental Complex" of teachers and I
describe it with this gesture (the speaker holds up a fist and opens
it slowly) which means, the deficiency in the ability to let go.
What does this mean? As parents we know how difficult it is to let
go and give responsibility and autonomy to our children. We never
stop being parents, no matter how old our children and we ourselves
may be. We still find it hard, even as grandparents, as I must admit.
The same is true of teachers. Letting go is not in the understanding
of our role. We think, we know better and must tell. We forget what
the famous philosopher Karl Popper said so often: the only meaningful
learning happens through trail and error, which includes the right to
make your own mistakes.
We may be experts in our fields and maybe even in teaching, but who
are the experts in learning if not the students themselves? If we
are serious in wanting to develop the learner-centered university, we
must make use of this potential.
I think, student participation in course development, teaching and
evaluation is not only vital for improving university teaching and
learning but it is also a powerful tool for moving with change.
In the beginning of this paper, Marcel says: Universities, much like
the Catholic-church, have resisted change despite enormous upheavals
in societies worldwide. And later he goes on to say: The fact is,
that there are, indeed, many critical research questions in higher
education, just as in any other field, but perhaps what we need most
of all is a better understanding of the university as a whole.
Universities are institutions. Their organization and functioning
have rarely been studied in any kind of systematic way.
In this doctoral dissertation the change potential of faculties and
universities is analyzed theoretically and empirically. Making use
of the theories of institutional analysis, the new institutional
economics and the theory of innovation management she shows, that in
as highly decentralized activities as the teaching in universities
small and even larger inventions are easily realized. In this
respect they are friendly to inventions. In an institutional
analysis the author analyzes the whys and hows of the Dinosaur
University or Catholic Church, as Marcel calls it. The application
of new institutional economics clearly shows that the incentives and
disincentives the system impede the spread of inventions and prevent
them from becoming innovations, i.e., innovative practices in
teaching and learning. However, with the lack of incentives and the
lack of political pressure these inventions have no effects on the
institution. They will not spread to become innovations and are
completely harmless for the Dinosaur, i.e., the organizational and
power structure of the university. Ute Schadler therefore postulates
that innovation in teaching and learning must be bound to political
action. To have effect in such churchlike structures they need
promoters or what innovation management calls "power promoters," who
deal with obstacles and resistance and establish support.
When we ask ourselves, as Marcel did and as Ute did in her
dissertation why we were not as successful as we should have been,
then often part of the fault can be put on the environment, i.e., on
the institution "university."
Ute Schaedler's analysis shows that we have been much too modest and
self-centered in our little inventions with the belief that
eventually the world will learn to appreciate, the wonderful things
which we are doing, because the good always wins in the long run.
Face it. This is not true. If we want to have recognition and
success on a large scale, we must also fight on the institutional and
political front. We may not just be innovators on the scale of our
classes but must become "power-promoters," as it is called in the
theory of innovation management. Exactly how this could be done
could be a theme for one of the next IUT conferences.
RITTER, ULRICH PETER: Good-bye Mr. Skinner or The Art of Student
Participation in Course Development, Paper presented to the Congress
of the European Association for Research and Development in Higher
Education, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, August 10, 1976, in: A. Bonboir
(Hrsg.), Proceedings, Bd. 1, Instructional Design in Higher
Education. Innovations in Curricular and Teaching, Louvain 1977,
RITTER, ULRICH PETER: The Participation of Students in Course
Planning and Development, in: T.B. Massey, Improving University
Teaching. Twentieth International Conference, Presented under the
auspices of City University of Hong Kong and University of Maryland
University College, Hong Kong 10-13 July 1995, S. 104-116
RITTER, ULRICH PETER: The co-operation with students in course
planning and development, in: Graham Gibbs (Ed.) Improving Student
Learning. Through Assessment and Evaluation, The Oxford Center for
Staff Development, Oxford Brookes University: Oxford 1995, S.226-236.
SCHADLER, UTE: Das Innovations-potential der Hochschulen: Chancen und
Risiken der Lehre an deutshen Universitaten; Frankfurt am Main; Bern;
New York; Paris; Wien; Lang, 1999 (Europaische Hochschulschriften:
Reihe 5, Volks-und Betriebswirtschaft, Bd. 2465