Let’s break down the calls for ‘disruptive innovation’ | So Good News


Judging by the headlines in our various trade publications, whatever the next chapter of higher education is, it must be innovative – OR ELSE.

The last few years have been stolen – the first emergency remote control courses, and then through semi-private learning—there is no shortage of information on how academia should “innovate” or perish. A chorus of op-eds, op-eds, deep dives, and meta-studies draw the inevitable conclusion: Innovation is “imperative,” “never been more important,” and only “disruptive innovation” helps us overcome the existential threats we face in operations and especially registration.

But what exactly do these frantic pleas mean by “innovation”?

In the tradition of freshman essays everywhere, let’s start with a dictionary definition innovation: “to make a change, to do something in a new way, to introduce something new or as new.” It may be a simple logic that makes the term so attractive to senior leaders: the status quo is unsustainable, so we must do something. new.

But more often than not, the demand for innovation ignores existing work and puts those who do it out of a job. Many faculty and staff – you may be one of them, dear reader – advocated for X to have only an outside consultant come in, present the exact same thing to senior management, and honor us as “the visionary who compelled us all.” finally realizes the importance of X.”

The second problem is that the avatars of innovation always seem to be people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos—you know: lone, courageous mavericks bravely fighting the entrenched and stagnant forces of inertia. Except, of course, that the faces of innovation are mostly white. almost always maleand often strengthensrather than breachthe most unfair features of the status quo.

Perhaps worst of all, innovation is routinely used as a justification to protect and enable real predators. How many stories have we read over the past few years about a “great scientist” whose work was so groundbreaking, extraordinary, or vitally important that it didn’t matter that he (and almost always “he”) was human. serial predator, pressuring students to communicate and sexual preferencesor a known stalker? When the mania for innovation so often overshadows ethics, this should give serious pause to the concept of using high-level strategy as a star in any discussion.

But what if we could approach innovation in a different way? What if we could move away from the kind of innovation that privileges innovation and outsider status? What if we refused to give anyone deemed an “innovator” a get-out-of-jail-free card for being a terrible person, and then innovated in ways that recognized the capacity of the higher education workforce to solve larger collective problems?

After all, “innovation” doesn’t always mean what’s being done now. In fact, the word itself comes from the Latin root “innovat—” which translates well as “renewed” or “changed.” In particular, the Latin verb “innovare” is a combination of “in-” (into-) and “novare” (“to make new”). It is not new, but rather presents an object updated (or perhaps revived).

With apologies When a stranger calls psychological horror movie, maybe news should come from inside the house. Instead of looking to outsiders for answers, we ask ourselves: What can we improve? What can we do new? Here are three specific areas where a more etymologically accurate approach to innovation could bear fruit in the uncertain times ahead:

Teaching and learning have always been hybrid. Embrace it. Hybrid learning was already a big issue with a well-developed scientific literature and community of practice before the pandemic. During Covid and still going on, hybrid is the primary method of teaching and learning for some institutions (to say nothing of meetings and other day-to-day institutional business). Whether we call it something else—HyFlex, flexible attendance, multimodal learning, or a cutie mark that plays on the institution’s mascot and/or brand—almost all of us have created the hybrid as “pandemic pedagogy.”

We did this for good reason, not for the flexibility of hybrid learning. Now, however, many campus conversations have failed to move administrators beyond the question of whether Zoom-based learning is the “new normal” (based on a superficial understanding of students’ desire for “convenience”), and exhausted faculty are listening in exasperation.

However, we cannot mix things up. The last two years have dramatically changed what we do. Danish professor Rikke Toft as Norgard wrote recently: “There are no sharp contrasts between digital, online, or distributed learning environments and physical, on-premises, or co-located environments. Digital as ‘natural’, ‘authentic’, ‘authentic’ and non-digital forms of learning are closely intertwined in our everyday learning interactions and experiences.’

This assessment reveals a powerful truth: teaching and learning are most effective always was a mixture of two (or more) different “species”. Students learn both in class and outside of class; course content is both figurative and abstract; meaningful reading is often both affirming and disturbing; learning has always evolved both synchronously and asynchronously. Effective teachers intuitively perceive their work as hybrid work, even if they have not previously used this terminology.

If so, we have a few questions to ask:

  • What learning practices can we “reinvent” that already exist on our campuses?
  • Who has successfully engaged students in-person and online?
  • Whose course projects and experiences contribute to deeper connections between students, student and instructor, and student and course material?
  • What would it be like to lift up these practitioners and expand their examples?
  • How do we do all of this without dichotomies too rigidly?

Higher education, for example, does not need to be all HyFlex or all on site. Because of course, getting started has never been easier. Both/and, as opposed to either/or, should be the guiding principle as we build the next chapters of our institutions.

There is no need to reinvent fire to solve the student dropout crisis. All we have to do is “encourage existence.” This is what the most effective teachers know how to do. This means creating a classroom where students and the instructor perceive themselves as complex people. We are all more than a name on a class list or an avatar photo—we are more than “the guy in the front row” or some other superficial description.

Participation is the degree to which people in a classroom or laboratory feel comfortable enough to risk sharing their full cognitive and affective selves, not just physically. A sense of involvement provides motivation, allows for rich and meaningful participation, and aids retention, analysis, and application of course content. Hence, participation foundation ensure effective teaching and learning and enable students to complete the tasks we set out to achieve.

At a time when an “incredible level of student segregation” seems to be a central feature of our educational landscape, creating such a classroom may seem like an impossible request. But before colleges and universities flock to the newest ed-tech “community platform” or bring in student success consultants to get expensive “answers,” consider the ways none of us are allowed to fully participate. last two years and how it continues to be a phenomenon for some students and teachers.

What if new technology tools and advisors don’t make it easier to participate?

Many answers can be found in existing research. As we all rush to switch our courses online in March 2020, most of us are the same. In particular: scientific literature — “research community” framework is about creating fully distance, asynchronous online courses that are at least somewhat humane. The COI framework suggests that authentic community between learners and instructors in an online space is the product of three overlapping and interdependent factors: instructional, cognitive, and social. participation. In a fully distance learning course, social participation means that not only the username of the students will be considered. People have spent years developing successful ways to achieve this in a remote, asynchronous course.

How can these ideas be translated to improve the traditional private classroom environment? What insights does this research group offer us in 2022? Rather than throwing money at “new” solutions to the “great student disconnect,” what if we promoted in-house experts who brought these ideas into teaching?

Formation and support of ownership culture. Of course, it’s hard to participate if you don’t feel like you belong. And we know that”belonging is uncertain” long-time bedridden students, most of whom work with a working hypothesis like “people like me don’t belong here”. Unfortunately, many students find (often relatively quickly) evidence to support their hypothesis. While the spread of inclusive learning and DEI initiatives has removed at least some of these feelings, the disaggregated, atomized practices of pandemic pedagogy have eroded much of this work. Today, the unity of our students is weaker than ever before.

belonging to As Terrell L. Strayhorn reminds us, a basic human need, and therefore a prerequisite for learning. as Strayhorn says: “Students have serious difficulties in completing tasks such as reading, studying and retaining information until they can address one of their basic needs – the need to be in a learning space.”

We often tell students that they are at our institution, but in everyday life our words ring hollow microaggressions and subtle but hidden forms of racism. We tell students that they should be active creators of knowledge, not just passive recipients of course content, but they look at our curricula and see fewer names of women and faculty of color listed as “knowledge creators.” The distance between our rhetoric and the actual course materials creates uncertainty about where they belong.

One of the most powerful educational truths to drive home during the pandemic is that learning is an affective process, not just a cognitive one. No matter how much content a student knows, a hostile classroom climate can increase their anxiety levels and prevent them from demonstrating the depth and breadth of this learning. Cultivating a sense of belonging to students free up cognitive bandwidthenables them to solve real-world learning challenges.

Much of what we do in higher education hinges on this basic concept. However, our students’ sense of belonging in our time is – at best – tenuous and contingent. If we are going to do the “innovative” work of renewing, of “making new,” something that has fallen into the shadows, we would do well to focus on a renewed and expanded focus on student ownership.

I guarantee you have people on your campus doing important work in all three of these areas. I cannot guarantee that their work is supported, resourced, validated or even noticed. So start asking: Who on your campus has acted on the reality that learning has always been hybrid? How is engagement developed and maintained with and for your students? Where are the efforts to foster ownership and who is fostering it?

As our institutions enter this new chapter in the history of higher education, we should remember that “novel” does not necessarily equal “good.”

In times of scarce resources, instead of neglecting or abandoning our assets, it seems the best course of action is to support and spend wisely.


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