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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lock and load!

How do you bring down a charging Bull Moose? Choosing the right ammunition and delivery system is most important. What does our BOT and this administration read to get such lame ideas (“new entity,” “extreme student centeredness,” “market-smart”?) We already know they have religiously read Zemsky's "Market-Smart and Mission-Centered" screed, which considered in its entirety a sick antelope of an argument in support of creative destruction in public higher education that can be felled with a slingshot and a marble. What else do they read and recommend? The redundancy of questionable content and quality along our top Administrators’ bookshelves are a good measure of why we are herded into a cul-de-sac of mediocrity as a public higher education institution -- instead of invited on a fast track toward excellence in education.

As business-sector benchmarking of A&S efficiencies in its mission-related delivery systems is now already upon us in spades, what should we be reading to be able to prepare ourselves in Council and Senate to deflect its targeted blunt-force impacts on our professional integrity as a professoriate? As in the case of the Zemsky book, we should be reading what our own administrators read and recommend to each other, and from which they derive their 1) dogmatic arguments, 2) self-serving justifications for the hurt and injury they cause others, and 3) disciplined commitment to dubious leadership.

This booklist would include one book -- perhaps at the very top of their reading list -- by Jim (Jimmy) Collins, titled "Good to Great" (pub. 2001 -- and which was at the top of Business Week's best-seller list for six years, selling two million copies!). The UT administration's benchmarking drive seems heavily influenced by the "business-sector wisdoms" of this Collin's book. And so they seem to apply them in both broad and small strokes toward "transforming" UT (good) into UT (great) -- as measured by U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings game.

I recommend that all concerned UT A&S students, faculty, staff and alumni read the following article in preparation for Spring debates about the implementation of benchmarking and its impacts on the restructuring of the A&S College:

Denrell, Jerker. 2005. "Selection Bias and the Perils of Benchmarking," Harvard Business Review, 83, 4:114-119

This article is only seven pages long, but it effectively undermines the so-called "research-based" arguments promoted by Collins (and also Zemsky) that pertain to the efficacy of benchmarking in the business world, and as our Administration seeks apply this demoralizing and inappropriate practice here UT.

The Denrell article can be accessed here, at no charge, through Carlson Library's electronic journal service:

Read up, gird up, then act. Help save A&S and its advanced studies in the liberal arts. The Bull Moose is upon us! Lock and load.


None said...

Diogenes: "The redundancy of questionable content and quality along our top Administrators’ bookshelves are a good measure of why we are herded into a cul-de-sac of mediocrity as a public higher education institution -- instead of invited on a fast track toward excellence in education."

The fault, dear Brutus, ...

Bill Daddy said...

below is an excerpt form an article that was sent around by a board member. I delete the name of the authors and the board member because I don't want to make anyone feel bad, but this apparently is the kind of goobledygook the upper administration uses to inform its policy. Hold on to your hats folks.

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." -Albert Einstein
A paradigm shift is taking hold in American higher education. In its briefest form, the paradigm that has governed our colleges is this: A college is an institution that exists to provide instruction. Subtly but profoundly we are shifting to a new paradigm: A college is an institution that exists to produce learning. This shift changes everything. It is both needed and wanted. (See chart comparing two paradigms)
We call the traditional, dominant paradigm the "Instruction Paradigm." Under it, colleges have created complex structures to provide for the activity of teaching conceived primarily as delivering 50-minute lectures-the mission of a college is to deliver instruction.
Now, however, we are beginning to recognize that our dominant paradigm mistakes a means for an end. It takes the means or method-called "instruction" or "teaching"-and makes it the college's end or purpose. To say that the purpose of colleges is to provide instruction is like saying that General Motors' business is to operate assembly lines or that the purpose of medical care is to fill hospital beds. We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means work best.
The shift to a "Learning Paradigm" liberates institutions from a set of difficult constraints. Today it is virtually impossible for them to respond effectively to the challenge of stable or declining budgets while meeting the increasing demand for post secondary education from increasingly diverse students. Under the logic of the Instruction Paradigm, colleges suffer from a serious design flaw: it is not possible to increase outputs without a corresponding increase in costs, because any attempt to increase outputs without increasing resources is a threat to quality. If a college attempts to increase its productivity by increasing either class sizes or faculty workloads, for example, academics will be quick to assume inexorable negative consequences for educational quality.
Just as importantly, the Instruction Paradigm rests on conceptions of teaching that are increasingly recognized as ineffective. As Alan Guskin pointed out in a September/October 1994 Change article premised on the shift from teaching to learning, "the primary learning environment for undergraduate students, the fairly passive lecture-discussion format where faculty talk and most students listen, is contrary to almost every principle of optimal settings for student learning." The Learning Paradigm ends the lecture's privileged position, honoring in its place whatever approaches serve best to prompt learning of particular knowledge by particular students.
The Learning Paradigm also opens up the truly inspiring goal that each graduating class learns more than the previous graduating class. In other words, the Learning Paradigm envisions the institution itself as a learner- over time, it continuously learns how to produce more learning with each graduating class, each entering student.
For many of us, the Learning Paradigm has always lived in our hearts. As teachers, we want above all else for our students to learn and succeed. But the heart's feeling has not lived clearly and powerfully in our heads. Now, as the elements of the Learning Paradigm permeate the air. Our heads are beginning to understand what our hearts have known. However, none of us has yet put all the elements of the Learning Paradigm together in a conscious, integrated whole.
Lacking such a vision, we've witnessed reformers advocate many of the new paradigm' s elements over the years, only to see few of them widely adopted. The reason is that they have been applied piecemeal within the structures of a dominant paradigm that rejects or distorts them. Indeed, for two decades the response to calls for reform from national commissions and task forces generally has been an attempt to address the issues within the framework of the Instruction Paradigm. The movements thus generated have most often failed, undone by the contradictions within the traditional paradigm. For example, if students are not learning to solve problems or think critically, the old logic says we must teach a class in thinking and make it a general education requirement. The logic is all too circular: What students are learning in the classroom doesn't address their needs or ours; therefore, we must bring them back into another classroom and instruct them some more. The result is never what we hope for because, as Richard Paul, director of the Center for Critical Thinking observes glumly, "critical thinking is taught in the same way that other courses have traditionally been taught, with an excess of lecture and insufficient time for practice."
To see what the Instruction Paradigm is we need only look at the structures and behaviors of our colleges and infer the governing principles and beliefs they reflect. But it is much more difficult to see the Learning Paradigm, which has yet to find complete expression in the structures and processes of any college. So we must imagine it. This is what we propose to do here. As we outline its principles and elements, we'll suggest some of their implications for colleges-but only some, because the expression of principles in concrete structures depends on circumstances. It will take decades to work out many of the Learning Paradigm's implications.
But we hope here that by making it more explicit we will help colleagues...

Anonymous said...

so this imagined paradigm is Jacob's policy!?

None said...

It must be. As Diogenes recommends, there's little value in reading things you might disagree with. After all, the echo chamber doesn't insulate itself. Board members passed around an article? They must be communists! Or witches! Thanks for the warning Bill Daddy. Can I get an assigned reading list so I don't expose myself to any ideas outside of the acceptable faculty-approved list?

Diogenes said...

Thanks, Bill Daddy, for reaffirming our worst suspicions about this carpetbagger Administration's recommended readings for its minions of overpaid, bean-counting drones. Change Magazine! Give me a break! But to read the sorry polemic (punctuated both by laughing and crying fits) offers insight into the ideological roots of the sinister conspiracy by which our venerable "Art of Teaching" was switched by the Brady Bunch (while everyone slept) for their ugly changeling "Business of Learning." As this little bastard grows up, it is programmed to render our A&S tenured professoriate at UT expendable, then extinct. Not on my watch! Let’s in solidarity install big wheels on that stinking black cradle and find a short pier, and fast! Anyway, as the jaundiced article makes clear, the public is being conned into giving up Mom's nourishing Apple Pie of an education here at UT for a future of being force-fed Jacobs' fast-food Learning Collaborative substitute -- his own bumble "Pie in the Sky” of a new paradigm. Without an excellent and dedicated tenured professoriate, this is the future of our venerable UT campus under its ill-informed and misguided administration: garbage in, garbage out. What intelligent student will choose to borrow -- much less pay -- for a future of that? When Strickland and Fingerhut and Brady and Jacobs and Haggett and Nina are gone to warmer climes, where will UT and the A%S College be? Where will you be? Don't retire! Fight! Protect our proud legacy of quality teaching, successful students, and staunch Alumni!

None said...

Sounds like a John McCain campaign speech.

Diogenes, say some more crazy stuff. You're like Sean Hannity at a Bill Clinton/Bill Ayers/Jeremiah Wright roast.

Diogenes said...

Who is Sean Hannity? A soon-to-be-lanced pestiferous carbuncle yet clinging to that stink-rotten corpse called the Greed Offal Party.