Three Decades of Lessons On Teaching and Learning
From the September 2000 AAHE Bulletin
Since 1984, the American Association for Higher Education has provided editorial leadership for Change magazine in a cooperative arrangement with the magazines publisher, the Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation. Receiving Change six times a year is a key benefit of AAHE membership.
Since its inception in 1969, Change magazine has had a central role in higher education, both reflecting and promoting the developments that have helped transform the academy. Conceived in the mid-1960s when there was neither the Chronicle of Higher Education nor a publishing house like Jossey-Bass, Change has been instrumental in establishing a common discourse to enable members of the academic community to talk across the disciplines about issues of broad concern. Change has provided a venue in which to identify the need for change, to feature reform efforts and innovations, to frame debates by airing positions of advocacy and resistance, and to share the latest research, demystifying college teaching and challenging prevailing myths. Change has reported the trends and helped to create and nurture others.
Change has also provided a vehicle in which to express the growing pains of a culture in transition, captured in teacher narratives that reveal the anguish and joys of transformation that are personal, professional, and societal. These stories represent a form of "going public" with ones experiences in higher education that has been cathartic for author and audience alike, helping us to make meaning of the changes we have witnessed and shared.
George Bonham, the first editor of Change, clarified its origins and purpose in his June 1976 Note from the Editor: "Change is an opinion magazine, a child of journalism rather than of scholarship. From its inception, Change was meant to be a new kind of forum on the central issues of human development and the future of higher education.
"In a field that to a large extent still looks at itself introspectively and distances itself from the mainstream concerns, Change has become a surprisingly influential sounding board for American thoughts and ideals. And in this context our objectives have to do with stimulation and encouragement of a pattern of education that will be more diverse and more serious, more at ease with itself politically and ideologically, more effective in the use of available resources, and less defensive about its social and pedagogical purposes. The task is not easy for fiscal as well as intellectual reasons. Few people now agree as to the fundamental purposes of education.
"Much is expected of us, often too much. We cannot build new roads where old ones have been. But we can erect road signs [W]e are committed, to use an old-fashioned word, to widening the idea of Change as a national town meeting on the education enterprise . "
In fulfilling that mission, Change has itself become a major change agent in higher education one that deserves our attention as a window into academic practice and problem solving during the last 30 years of the 20th century.
Sharing the Lessons Learned
In celebration of Changes 30th anniversary, Theodore Marchese, AAHE vice president and executive editor of Change, and John von Knorring, president of Stylus Publishing, conceived a project that would feature landmark articles from Change on teaching and learning in higher education, making them readily available to yet another generation of academics. The result is a collection I edited, Learning from Change: Landmarks in Teaching and Learning from Change Magazine (19691999). In addition to 160 Change articles (many of which are excerpts), there are introductory commentaries for each of 13 sections by experts in the field who clarify the context and the evolutionary and often dialectical nature of the conversations over time about dimensions of teaching and learning. These commentators also served as contributing editors, selecting the articles in their sections. (See box below for a list of sections and section editors.) The Foreword by Theodore Marchese and Introduction and Conclusions by myself frame the collection, providing an analysis of trends and unfinished agendas as we enter the 21st century.
What can we conclude about higher education from this study of Change magazine? During the past 30 years in higher education, significant changes have occurred in teaching and learning. These changes were propelled not by a single engine, but by many different developments acting as levers shaping attitudes, creating opportunities, promoting shifts in policies and practices. Together, they provided the critical mass of momentum to enable higher education to make unprecedented strides.
Developments that Changed Teaching and Learning
There were many developments during the last 30 years that changed the world of higher education, particularly with regard to teaching and learning.
Each of these factors can be seen as both a cause and effect of the changes that occurred in teaching and learning during this period. None of them is discrete, and the interactive effects are profound and ongoing. The list is not in strict chronological order; some of these developments emerged concurrently, albeit in different sectors of higher education, gaining momentum and significance at different rates. Others have had an ongoing impact that is periodically energized by innovations in the field, as in the case of new technologies.
All of these developments are explored in Learning from Change. Their elaboration is not my intent here. They are included to underscore the number and type of developments that contributed to the changes we see in higher education today. They affirm the degree to which significant changes were made possible by other shifts, some antecedent, some concurrent, some planned and proactive, some reactive to forces both within and outside the academy. They help to explain why, for example, many of the student-centered active-learning methods advocated 30 years ago are only now taking root and flourishing; there is readiness for these methods because a sufficient number of preconditions exist, enabling innovations to be adopted, assessed, rewarded, and sustained. Taken together, these developments represent a cultural shift, one that increasingly promotes and supports an active culture of teaching.
Promoting a Culture of Teaching
As seen through the lens of Change, we have made strides in promoting a culture of teaching during the last 30 years. We have begun to open classroom doors and "go public" with teaching. We have focused on redefining faculty roles and rewards and reconceptualizing the scholarship of teaching. We are engaging in assessment of student learning and pursuing the paradigm shift from teaching to learning. We are integrating active approaches to teaching and learning, particularly the use of technology. Innovative programs such as Preparing Future Faculty are establishing new ways to acculturate faculty to the importance of their instructional role. Teaching centers and instructional development programs are proliferating, and higher education organizations, accrediting and funding agencies, and disciplinary associations are focusing on teaching and learning initiatives. The evaluation of teaching has evolved from sporadic efforts to systematic approaches involving student evaluations, teaching portfolios, and peer review.
But this emergent culture of teaching exists within the larger culture of higher education, and therein lies the greatest challenge. Bringing together those who care deeply about teaching is only part of the task; gaining and sustaining the support and interest of those who are committed primarily to the other missions of higher education is an equally important and difficult endeavor. That is the work of the 21st century. In the meanwhile, we can take heart that we are entering the new millennium to the sound of voices engaged in animated conversations about teaching and learning, voices that come alive in the pages of Change. In offering us a venue for exchange about critical issues in higher education, Change continues to realize the promise made years ago by George Bonham to provide us with an ongoing "national town meeting" one that reflects and supports democratic process in action.
Learning from Change: Landmarks in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from Change magazine 19691999, is published by Stylus Publishing in association with the American Association for Higher Education. To order, visit AAHEs online publications catalog at www.aahe.org/catalog.
Deborah DeZure is coordinator of faculty programs and
publications at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), University of
Michigan-Ann Arbor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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