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Reconstituting the Culture of Higher Education The current culture -- the shared norms, values, standards, expectations and priorities -- of teaching and learning in the academy is not powerful enough to support true higher learning.As a result, students do not experience the kind of integrated, holistic, developmental, rigorous undergraduate education that must exist as an absolute condition for truly transformative higher learning to occur.
We mean the assumption that retention is just keeping students in school longer, without serious regard for the quality of their learning or their cumulative learning outcomes at graduation.
We mean giving priority to intercollegiate sports programs while support for the success of the great majority of students who are not athletes suffers.
The core explanation is this: the academy lacks a serious culture of teaching and learning.
When students do not learn enough, we must question whether institutions of higher education deliver enough value to justify their costs.
The leaders of many, if not most, colleges and universities might agree with this assessment of the problem, but would likely argue, with some justice, that no single institution can risk being the only one to change; that restoring attention to the fundamentals, rather than the frills, would put that one institution at serious risk.
Indeed, it is true that this is a collective problem, and that action by many schools, supported by a strong national impetus for change, is a necessary condition for success.
We do not demand enough (doing that would conflict with consumer friendliness, perhaps); our standards are not high enough (setting them higher creates retention worries); we accept half-hearted work from students who do not insist on enough from themselves and do not know how to ask for more from their teachers (doing otherwise would make college more serious; how could it still be “fun”? Degrees have become deliverables because we are no longer willing to make students work hard against high standards to earn them.
A weak educational culture creates all the wrong opportunities.
Without academic expectations to bring structure to students’ time, too much time is wasted.
In the absence of high academic and behavioral expectations, less demanding peer norms become dominant.