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"The winds of change": improving and assessing teaching quality.

I seriously doubt that there is any issue of greater importance to all of higher education than how to improve and assess teaching performance. If we do not effectively address the assessment and reward system for teaching excellence, it will be done for us by those who determine our resources and funding. It is decision time for us. We need to remember the quote, "Don't make future decisions, but consider the future of today's decisions." We cannot afford to be like that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, who said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." We must choose the right road and move forward. As Will Rogers once said, "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." We must take some bold new steps to make fundamental changes in our assessment and reward system for teaching and all faculty assignments.

The only thing constant about the future is that it will continue to change. If there is one thing that we cannot and should not do, it is to stay the same. The status quo simply won't move us to the next century in an acceptable form in an ever shrinking, competitive, complex, and diverse world.

I do not make this statement as a prediction. When it comes to predictions, I'm like Yogi Berra, who said, "I hate to make predictions, especially if they involve the future." I make this statement because the weather map is already showing that some new winds are blowing our way.

As you are aware, a current wave of institutional "soul-searching" across the nation is poised to produce significant transformations in higher education. The movement now underway to evaluate and redefine the century-old model of the research university is being watched with interest, applause, and some skepticism. There is widespread agreement that we need to re-emphasize teaching and undergraduate education. However, the University must not fall into simple-minded dichotomies of teaching versus research. Exemplary teaching, research, and service must all be carefully linked to complement each other and provide a creative and exciting atmosphere for discovery, learning, and development for faculty and students. Our students must be taught by faculty who themselves continue to learn through scholarship and whose classroom teaching is of the highest quality and scholarship. We must never get into the situation I heard one student describe: "Our professor was a dismal soul; he embalmed the subject and left us to view the remains."

Today, higher education and much of government and public service are like a plant being pulled out of the ground to examine its roots. While we may think that the present situation is just another blip on the screen or temporary setback, the "Winds of Change" are about to cause fundamental systemic changes. I firmly believe that the university of tomorrow will be far different than the university of today. The subject of this symposium is a fundamental part of making these changes.

What are these "Winds of Change" and what has produced them? The current situation includes the following: continued budget shortfalls; public dissatisfaction with undergraduate teaching; the national issue of indirect cost; elitism; misconduct in research; low faculty workloads and productivity; high faculty salaries; high administrative costs; court-ordered programs; the shifting of federal program costs to the states; and increased accountability. In one word, change. The shape of higher education will be significantly changed as the 21st century dawns.

I do believe we must take some leadership initiatives in balancing our multiple missions in teaching, research, and public service. We must remember the old adage, "That which gets rewarded gets done." We must develop and support new methods and evaluation instruments to reward quality teaching.

In the "Winds of Change," we cannot always direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails and make changes in our course. The future will not be business as usual. It is clear that the healthy academic environment of the future must clearly support an integration of teaching, research, and service for the benefit of the consumer - the public who either does or does not support us.

The "Winds of Change" have been influenced by continuing state budget deficits, rapidly growing human service demands far beyond the state's resource structure to accommodate them, a lack of strategic planning and priorities, which has caused us to stumble from crisis to crisis, and rapidly changing demographics. These are areas of state government which we must compete with for funding, often finding our needs classified as a lower priority.

These are only a few of "The Winds of Changes" in Higher Education. The question is, "What is the opportunity before us and what leadership role can or will we take?" I can assure you that those institutions that will be supported and excel in the future will be those who accept the "Winds of Change" and who make fundamental changes in how teaching is assessed and rewarded. We must remember that kites rise highest against the wind, not with it. Our most important performance outcome will be our graduates - undergraduates, graduate, and professional. This is how the public judges us, along with our service to their needs. Our national and international stature is based on our faculty, research, publications and papers at professional meetings and our graduate students. Our state reputation is built on our teaching of undergraduates and our public service.

The former great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." As we look at the "Winds of Change" and the current fiscal and legislative issues, I believe that the faculty and administration must form a new partnership to restore the grass roots public and governmental trust and respect for higher education. No one of us can do this alone. It will take all of us working together to make sure that what we cannot do does not interfere with what we can do. Our efforts must be broad-based, beginning with what we do in the classroom, to how we teach, to what we say to our students and whether they perceive our interest in them and their education is sincere. This is our most powerful and influential message, which must find its way home to those upon whom we depend for funding. The "Winds of Change" and current perspectives on fiscal and legislative issues make it incumbent on all of us to be a part of public service. Public service is a public trust. We must communicate our contributions better. There is a quote I cannot attribute to the effect that, "You can't tell what we are doing by watching us." This must not be said about us; we must pro-actively and in real time show the good things we are doing.

As faculty and administration, we must openly and honestly self-examine the centrality of our missions without the fear or threat of insecurity or a lack of trust and respect for each other. I firmly believe we must have this trust and maturity in order to balance the quality and reward system of our missions and to articulate these clearly to the university community. We cannot be islands of researchers or islands of teachers. Rather, we must promote a scholarly community of faculty respecting each other for our differences in responsibilities and our contributions to the whole.

The faculty and administration, individually and collectively, have the ability to make good things happen or not happen. A university is no stronger or more mature than its faculty, and the faculty will either be the greatest impedient or the most powerful agent for change and progress toward maturity. If our teaching, research, public service, and graduates could only be judged on a single criterion, it should be quality. We have a great opportunity to prove that we can teach and serve at the same time that we grow and mature in scholarship.

It is from this vantage point that this symposium is offered. We are not all experts, but we have individuals here who are. We are the beneficiaries of their efforts. We represent tangible examples of how a teaching portfolio can improve classroom performance and how it can be integrated into an overall assessment and reward system.

I hope that when this conference concludes you will have discovered how teaching portfolios and assessment programs can work. I hope you will recognize that you have the opportunity to join us as pioneers in this exciting new endeavor.

If those of us in higher education are to maintain strong undergraduate teaching, we must evaluate and reward the teachers. If we truly believe that excellence in teaching is our heritage, the basis of a great university, and the right of every student, then we must be willing to embrace new ideas and not rely on obsolete methods of evaluation.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gage, E. Dean
Publication:SAM Advanced Management Journal
Date:Mar 22, 1993
Words:1481
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