Some mantras are actually the exact opposite of what they say. Take “urban renewal” as an example. “Those who remember the 1960s know that this sentence is synonymous with slum clearance, or in the words of James Baldwin, “clear blacks.”
The term educational innovation is similar. More than just an empty signifier, it has a vague and uncertain meaning. The phrase usually refers to a way to make education faster, cheaper, more flexible, more efficient and more cost-effective.
Think about the most admired educational innovations of the past decade—such as competency-based education or open educational resources or stackable certificates or learning analytics or early-stage universities. The main goal is not to enrich educational experience. This is to speed up the time to study for a degree and maximize the completion rate while reducing costs.
Educational innovations are often related to technological rapid solutions, such as data-driven recommendations and promotion, and some degree of shortcuts, such as previous learning assessments.
In the most extreme form, innovation imitates the strategies and methods introduced by for-profit institutions: narrow, career-related courses, standardized courses, shorter semesters, multiple start dates, autonomous, self-paced learning, online delivery Models, and of course, replace tenured faculty with coaches, course mentors, and dedicated raters.
I certainly understand the appeal of this innovation. After all, our universities do need to control costs, better meet the needs of non-traditional students, and ensure that more students leave the university with meaningful and marketable certificates.
Of course, there are other educational innovations that really seek to improve the quality of education. Active and experiential learning, real evaluation, reverse design, flipped classroom and makerspace are just a few examples. The phrase “high-impact practice” symbolizes the goal of making higher education more targeted, coherent, developmental and transformative.
But these innovations are mainly adopted on a teacher-by-teacher basis, rather than as part of a broader rethinking of higher education goals or objectives.
Real innovation is not just a technical issue, nor is it just the adoption of some new teaching strategies. This is about redesigning policies and practices—especially those involving credit transfer or remediation or entry into basic courses—making it difficult for students to earn a degree in time.
More importantly, it is about changing the educational experience itself.
In High Ed Gamma, I try to propose scalable educational innovation methods, emphasizing fairness and skill building, and seek to make the university experience richer, more exciting, and more transformative for intellectual and development purposes.
My overall goal is to allow more undergraduates to succeed in high-demand fields and expand their influence in practice, which will lead to deeper learning, personal growth and critical self-reflection, and allow more undergraduates to gain rich Educational experience, only the most privileged students currently receive.
After all, if higher education involves more than training, career preparation or obtaining a marketable certificate, and if its ultimate goal is not only to train well-prepared employees, but also to be well-rounded and well-educated graduates, then our focus needs to be first Practical educational experience.
At the practical level, providing a truly transformative educational experience on a large scale requires us to rethink degree requirements, curriculum paths, pedagogy, extracurricular activities, consulting, support services, and evaluation models. These methods are not only effective but also influential.
This especially requires us to rethink the role of teachers. I believe that every faculty member should be a scholar engaged in active research. After all, one of the benefits of higher education should be the opportunity to be exposed to the latest research and ideas, and to interact with true intellectuals and practical scholars.
In other words, I also believe that in their teaching roles, faculty and staff not only need to regard themselves as providers of knowledge and skills or content experts, but also as mentors, learning architects, skill builders, and educators. Home and team leaders They work with students to conduct inquiries and investigations.
Let me suggest some out-of-the-box strategies that may help us achieve these development, transformation, and skills development goals on a large scale.
1. Enroll students in a more systematic way.
Even the most powerful freshman admissions guidance rarely adequately prepares students for university success. Another option is to create a first-year credit student success course, which includes mentality training to help students with professional selection and degree mapping, and expose them to the various support services and extracurricular activities provided by the institution. On the contrary, student success may become a more important part of the existing curriculum.
2. Replace traditional tuition courses with new forms of supplementary teaching.
Obviously, non-credit tutoring classes are a black hole and rarely succeed in achieving their designated goals. These courses not only reduce academic motivation, but also often cause students to drop out. We have found that through coexisting support—including supplementary instruction courses, peer-led study groups, and tutoring—the vast majority of students who have previously participated in tuition courses can succeed in more advanced credit courses.
3. Align mathematics with students’ majors.
In today’s data-rich society, arithmetic is as important as any other literacy ability. But this is not necessarily the same as university algebra. Depending on the student’s preferred subject, arithmetic may require probabilities, statistics and data analysis or quantitative reasoning skills, or calculus.
In areas where a strong traditional mathematics background is essential for success, such as chemistry or physics, we may redesign the main pathways so that more students have enough time to master these skills, for example, by providing less mathematics The first-year basic courses are intensive.
4. Expand access to the learning community.
In my experience, the learning community provides one of the best ways to cultivate a sense of belonging, and we know that this is the key to academic success. A well-designed learning community is an affinity group that can build a student network, connect students with teachers and mentors, and create a support structure to enable students to graduate smoothly.
5. Integrate career preparation, research and cultural enrichment into academic experience.
Why do honor students get rich extracurricular activities opportunities that most other students don’t? Shouldn’t we strive to expose every student to intensive advice, research opportunities, community awareness, and extracurricular interactions with teachers, these are the honors students usually get?
In view of the many requirements for student time, it is important to integrate various rich opportunities into existing courses, or create new credit courses or provide certificates to reward students for participating in lectures, skills development seminars and guided research, internships, and other experiential learning opportunity.
According to a 2018 federal report, “Dirty Little Secret” Regarding educational innovation: Only 18% of innovations funded by the Ministry of Education have a positive impact on student performance.
Most funded projects involve technical or personalized learning, ignoring the fact that most learning depends on student participation, motivation, focus, persistence, and active handling of knowledge and skill practice, which depends on interaction with others, regardless of Is it a teacher or a classmate?
Let us shift education innovation from technology and efficiency to emphasizing development and transformation. We need to better support students emotionally and psychologically so that they can actively participate in their own learning. Let us remember: the key to true innovation is to strengthen interpersonal relationships and engage students in educational activities.
Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.