I don't want to talk about cures just yet. That puts the cart before the horse. But I do want to mention a belief that any cure has to exhibit leverage - killing two birds with one stone. So in looking for cures you do look for solutions that do that.
I bring that up here because I want to cement a lesson from the session with the CIOs. The importance of communication was emphasized in that session. How does a student learn about communication? The thought is that a mentor learns something about communication via mentoring. We'll return to that later, but I wanted to mention it here before the idea gets forgotten.
The goal in this session is to cast an underlying framework for the session with the Deans. The two main players we want to think about are first, students, and second, instructors, both those on the tenure track and those who are not.
The underlying framework feature a dual nature to the role of these actors. They are both customers and producers. Usually we think of people as being one or the other, but not both.
Students as customers is pretty easy. They pay tuition explicitly and they pay implicitly with their time spent at school, which could be spent on something else. Students as producers might have been an alien concept before taking this course, but it should be pretty evident now. Consider that Ross piece from Scientific American and stuff we read from the National Academy volume on experts. Their is work at becoming an expert.
The George Kuh article about what they are learning from NSSE says that there is a problem with students as producers, because the evidence suggests many students are not engaged and have unrealistic expectation about the time required for learning.
Let's turn to instructors. Understanding them as producers is easy. Teaching is work. Research is work. Public service is work. Understanding them as customers, which is what the Arthur Levine essay argues, might need some explanation. Work can be thought of as a means to an end. We think of jobs as paying wages, health care and other benefits. But work can also be an end in itself. According to Drucker, this is particularly true with knowledge workers.
When work is an end in itself and you are able to influence the nature of the work environment, you will try to shape the environment so it produces more of the customer benefit. We will spend some time talking about what this shaping looks like. If faculty were 100 per cent researchers, what environment would be most welcoming for that? We'll use that question to frame the answer to the customer benefit.
Given the duality of both student and instructor roles, the question is whether there is good balance with each. Or does the balance get out of whack? Kuh's piece argues there is a problem of being out of balance, which he refers to as the Disengagement Pact, where the customer side seems to overwhelm the producer side and this is true both for students and instructors.
Now throw into the mix what large classes do, which we've talked about somewhat. And put into the soup questions about cost and access. Try to address the Disengagement Pact seriously and it looks like you make the cost and access issues harder.
Consider our class. I hope (most of if not all of) you are engaged in what we are doing. But our class is very small, it is exclusive in being for CHP students only, and I can assure you I'm putting in much more time than I would if I were teaching this course on a regular basis and having other faculty burdens. Our course does not serve as a model to address the larger issues.
In talking with the deans, we want to ask them about the issues. They are struggling mightily with planning for budget cuts. So it is fair game to talk about courses that are lecture-discussion switching to straight lecture as an economy move and having fewer graduate students on campus. But what does that do vis-a-vis the Disengagement Pact?