Objective 4: Strengthening Incentives for Quality Improvement
Colleges and universities operate within a field of pressures and forces that provide incentives for recruiting students with high test scores, building attractive facilities and hiring faculty with national reputations. These pressures do not provide consistent incentives for quality improvement. The question is: Can anything be done?
One reason for optimism is that there are college and university leaders—primarily representing institutions with aspirations and accomplishments that are not recognized by the traditional definitions and criteria of excellence—who are exercised about these issues and willing to work to improve things. The presidents of urban and regional universities serving large populations of adult commuting students, for example, have long suffered under accountability frameworks that are based on such measures as SAT scores and graduation rates. Leaders such as these are ready to participate in endeavors that would produce measures more in keeping with their unique missions.
A second reason for cautious optimism is that most of the external entities that need to be involved are well aware of the issues and readily acknowledge the need for reform. The editors at U.S. News and World Report, the state officials responsible for selecting indicators for performance funding, the staffs of accrediting agencies—all these folks are aware of the limitations of the present criteria and processes they use. Most are willing, and some are eager, to take part in initiatives to improve the quality incentives in higher education.
Given this readiness, I propose to encourage lead institutions to take part in pilot projects that aim to identify the characteristics of excellence appropriate to their kinds of institutions and collect and share evidence of their own performance with respect to these characteristics. Efforts to develop new definitions and performance measures could be used voluntarily by institutions to improve their own performance. Or they could be built into the processes of accountability used by external agencies. Ultimately, to improve the incentives for quality, we will need to improve the criteria and processes that are built into the systems of quality assurance enforced by external agencies. But influencing the institutional-level process is a critical step in getting from here to there, for if colleges and universities do not believe the information has value, they will be unwilling to collect and report it.
I further propose to encourage a few, carefully developed projects that are designed to improve the ways that relevant external agencies go about the business of providing incentives for quality. One possible line of work might focus on improving the published college ratings. A second possible line of work might focus on performance funding and other means by which state governments provide incentives for quality improvement. A third might explore alternative methods of institutional accreditation in which institutions develop institutional portfolios instead of engaging in traditional self-studies and in which external reviews audit the quality of these portfolios rather than conduct traditional external visits. To mount an effort that will make a difference in any of these areas will be a complex undertaking; however, if successful, the Trusts could make a real difference.
To generate leadership and creative energy for approaching quality assurance in new ways, I am also intrigued with the possibilities of what we can learn from other countries. Over the last decade, countries like England, The Netherlands and Australia have developed approaches to academic quality assurance that American educators would do well to consider. Accordingly, I would like to create a mechanism whereby key leaders in American higher education could learn from their colleagues abroad.
The Community-Minded Campus: Working with Schools toward High Standards
As a second major goal, I propose that we undertake two lines of work designed to encourage colleges and universities to connect more fully with America's vital needs. As our first and major concern, I propose that we bring more depth and strategic focus to the engagements between higher education and the schools. I also propose that we invest selectively in efforts to shape policies that reinforce our larger agenda of connecting colleges and universities to America's vital needs.
Objective 1: Reinforcing School Reform
Colleges and universities exert an enormous influence on schools, not only as resources to the K-12 sector but as models that signal the way the game should be played. To engage the task of school reform in meaningful ways, college and university leaders must see themselves as leaders of the entire educational enterprise.
A century ago, this was the case. In the early 1900s, a group of university presidents literally created the basic rules by which schools now operate. Concerned about how to evaluate the applications for admission of students from high schools they did not know, they created the regional accrediting agencies, which, in turn, specified the subjects high school students should be required to study and the course/credit-hour formats for this study. Then, unwilling to rely solely on the strategy of requiring courses, they created the College Entrance Examination Board to develop national examinations for college entrance. Now we should call on our higher education leaders to take on the challenge of setting a new agenda for a new century.
The first area that is ripe for our attention is that of college admissions, especially the task of setting and communicating standards for admission that move beyond course requirements. The strategy of requiring specific courses for college admission had an enormous impact on the schools. What goes on inside these courses still varies enormously, however, and course-taking requirements still keep students locked into the seat time-based system of accumulating credit hours. Several states, most notably Oregon, Wisconsin and Maryland, are now piloting new policies in which student progress is measured in terms of demonstrated mastery of defined levels of knowledge and abilities. Oregon's 1991 school reform legislation, for example, requires all Oregon secondary schools to provide students with performance-based certificates of initial mastery and certificates of advanced mastery. The Oregon State System of Higher Education is now trying to align its admissions procedures with this performance-based system. This effort illustrates the kind of initiative that the Trusts can support.
In doing so, we have a particularly important role to play in championing the kinds of standards and assessment methods that measure deep understanding rather than the simple recall of knowledge. Restructured schools that use engaged pedagogies to teach for understanding are increasingly turning to portfolios and other creative assessment methods to measure student progress. College admissions officers, accustomed to receiving straightforward SAT and American College Test scores do not know what to do with these new kinds of evidence. Thus, one of our priorities should be to develop a new currency for representing student achievement.
Shifting from course/credit-hour standards to performance standards, in turn, opens up a wider strategy we can pursue—breaking the lockstep in the transition to college. For years, the College Board's Advanced Placement program has allowed high school students to get a jump start on college by enabling them to get college credit for taking advanced-level courses during high school. And, recently, schools and colleges have collaborated in developing other arrangements that make it easier for students to make the transition to college. The middle college high school at LaGuardia Community College, for example, accelerates the achievement of at-risk high school students by putting them in a powerful teaching environment on its own campus. Project Advance, developed by the faculty at Syracuse University, enables students in high school to participate in college-level courses taught by high school teachers with special training from the Syracuse faculty.
To enable more effective student learning opportunities, and to reduce costs, the Trusts should encourage a new round of bold innovation in this arena. We do not have the resources to fund much actual experimentation, but we can help map the terrain and draw attention to the opportunities and benefits, which are substantial. To take a simple example: the California Higher Education Policy Center recently estimated that if 70 percent of the entering freshman at the University of California began college with at least one semester's worth of college credit, the university would save $47 million that could be invested elsewhere.
A second major arena in which colleges and universities have enormous influence on schools is the "teacher connection"—both the task of educating for the profession of teaching, and the task of working with the ongoing professional development of teachers. The first point to be made here is that nearly everything we do under the aegis of our first goal will also improve the preparation of teachers. Students preparing to be teachers acquire their ideas about how to teach not only from what professors in departments and schools of education say they should do. They also acquire their ideas about how to teach from an "apprenticeship of observation," that is, by how they were taught by faculty in the arts and sciences. Here, again, we encounter the "modeling" effect of higher education. Improving teacher education and improving the quality of undergraduate education are one and the same thing.
Beyond this spillover effect from our efforts under Goal I, the Trusts, I believe, have an important role to play in advancing teacher professionalism. But because this agenda is itself complex, and so closely tied to our work in K-12, I will postpone discussion of this agenda until I present our "mini-white paper" on our continuing work in K-12.
Objective 2: Reviving Connections through Policy Studies
In discussing "the challenge of connections," I took note of trends that are making our work with schools more difficult. Growing social inequalities are undermining America's historic commitment to equalize opportunity. Differential access to the new technologies threatens to widen the gaps between haves and have nots still further. At the level of campus policy, the way that missions are formulated into teaching, research and service trivializes the role service should play in guiding and inspiring the kind of teaching and research that needs to be done.
The Trusts have developed a reputation for bringing thoughtful and factual analysis to bear on many areas of social policy. The issues that I identified in discussing "the challenge of connections" call for just such an approach. I do not propose here to lay out a proactive program of grantmaking in this area, but rather to undertake a few major initiatives and then to stay alert to investment opportunities as they arise. Three examples may illustrate what I have in mind.
Public financing of higher education—at both the state and federal levels—has drifted away from the principle of helping first those who need help the most. President Clinton's new proposal to add massive new resources through the tax system will exacerbate this trend. The Trusts can underwrite studies of who benefits and who pays for higher education, and confront policy makers and the broader public with the need to make intentional choices about these fundamental issues.
In the current debate about affirmative action, proponents of affirmative action claim that there are important educational benefits to attending a college with diverse student bodies--but cite little evidence that would back this claim. Opponents press their case--without reference to evidence about how the abolition of affirmative action will impact minority enrollments in selective institutions. As it has in other controversial areas of social policy, the Trusts can underwrite investigations that will enlighten these and other issues that are critical to thoughtful public judgment.
Student aid is awarded to students largely for two reasons: economic need and academic merit. But there is a third rationale that also merits attention: service to the larger society. Given the Trusts' overall interest in promoting civic engagement, and the Education program's interest in promoting modes of teaching and learning that emphasize engagement and the development of civic responsibility, we should look for opportunities to underwrite studies and public forums that explore the idea of aiding students for their service to the larger community.
GOAL III: Scholar-Professors For The 21st Century
In the final analysis, the faculty will determine whether any of the agendas outlined in this paper will be accomplished. If colleges and universities are to control costs and increase productivity, faculty members must work in more flexible ways. If the quality of undergraduate education is to be improved, faculty must allocate more time to undergraduate education and adopt new instructional roles. And if colleges and universities are to respond more effectively to the needs of the larger community, the faculty must engage in new kinds of public scholarship and outreach activities. The faculty are key to everything.
Popular books such as Profscam blame the faculty for neglecting teaching and new forms of public service. But a more thoughtful way to state the problem is to recognize that faculty members themselves are caught up in a system of professional ideals, rewards and incentives that no longer serve their needs. As we have seen, in the l960s the ideal of professional life and academic excellence embodied in the research university came to be regarded as the only mode of scholarly life that deserved legitimacy and prestige. Times have now changed. Our challenge is to create new expectations—to open up for faculty a larger, more generous and multidimensional view of what faculty life can be. In doing so, we should never denigrate the vital importance of basic research. Yet basic research is only one of many forms of valuable professional accomplishment.
Our strategies for changing the professional culture must also recognize that faculty members have dual loyalties and lead dual careers. During their graduate training, faculty members come to see themselves as mathematicians, chemists, historians and experts in other particular fields. Earning a Ph.D. is a rite of passage into membership in a particular community of scholars. Membership in this community is independent of the university. A chemist is a chemist whether he or she works at Dupont, the National Institutes of Health or the University of Pennsylvania. If a scholar accepts an appointment at a college or university, he or she then joins a second community, the community of professors who teach at colleges and universities. A professor is a professor only when employed by a college or university.
If we are to legitimate a larger ideal of faculty life, these overlapping communities of scholars and professors must participate in this undertaking. Mathematicians, chemists, historians and the rest must rethink the values they attach to various forms of scholarly work. And the academic profession, working with the university administrations that employ faculty, must redefine what academic careers are possible within the university, what kinds of professional accomplishments are valued, and how these are judged and rewarded.
How might the Trusts participate in this rather daunting undertaking? We can help generate and disseminate new visions of what scholars and professors can be and do. We can work with universities and relevant scholarly and professional organizations to enact these visions into practice at two different points in the professional career: during the making of scholars and professors in graduate school, and during the critical points of evaluation and judgment all along the scholarly/professional career. Finally, we can encourage faculty to consider teaching as a form of scholarly work, worthy of inquiry and peer review.
The path of reform must be illuminated by new visions of both the scholarly and professional careers. But these visions need not be created from scratch. The task here is, in part, to reclaim legacies that have been lost. From the colonial colleges, we inherited a tradition of the faculty member as a scholar-teacher who considers teaching less a job than a calling. From the land grant universities and the first professional schools we inherited a tradition of the faculty member as a specialist with hands-on expertise in an applied field, closely connected to the world of practice, perhaps even working in both worlds at the same time. The problem is not that we have lacked alternative models. The problem is that the German university ideal of the faculty as researcher—fueled by the massive federal investment in research after WWII—came to be viewed in many quarters as the only legitimate ideal worth pursuing.
The task of re-envisioning the scholarly dimension of the faculty career has already begun. In 1992, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a seminal report, aptly titled "Scholarship Reconsidered." This report recast the tiresome debate over teaching versus research—the competing obligations of faculty members in their role as professors—by arguing that all faculty members should see themselves as scholars, and that all scholars have a fourfold responsibility for advancing knowledge through research; integrating and synthesizing knowledge through, for example, writing textbooks or writing for larger publics; applying knowledge to improve practice through consulting, for example; and representing their knowledge through teaching. "Scholarship Reconsidered" quickly became the best-selling special report ever issued by the Carnegie Foundation. It struck a chord with faculty across the nation and has stirred a national movement to rewrite guidelines for promotion and tenure to reflect this broadened vision of scholarly work.
The task of re-envisioning the professorial dimension of the faculty career is not as far along. For a decade, universities have been trying to do a better job of preparing teaching assistants (TAs) for their roles in undergraduate classrooms. A few universities have developed sophisticated programs of TA training based on developmental conceptions of learning to teach. In a few universities, courses have sprung up that are aimed at introducing graduate students to their roles and responsibilities as members of the professorate. With support from the Trusts, one major project is under way in which graduate students are serving as apprentice teachers in institutions that are not research universities. But there is little deeper thinking going on about what the professorate of the 21st century should look like or what the organizational underpinnings of a faculty career in which teaching is taken seriously might be. For example, in major universities, decisions about moving up the traditional ladders of academic rank, from assistant to associate to full professor, turn largely on criteria of scholarly achievement. I know of only a few cases where progress in rank is tied to a developmental conception of faculty performance as a teacher and responsible member of the academic profession.
The Trusts can seed and stimulate more and deeper thinking about these issues and about what activities they might generate in particular settings. We can also give new voice to organizations and constituencies, such as graduate students and new professors, that are interested in promoting the educational responsibilities of the academic profession, as against focusing primarily on employment security issues.
Objective 1: The New American Scholar: Redefining the Ph.D.
To reshape the academic profession, it makes obvious sense to begin at the beginning—with the making of scholar-professors. But the history of efforts to reform graduate education is not encouraging. I don't believe that add-on activities, such as training graduate students for roles as teachers, will really take hold unless they are part of a more inclusive vision of what the Ph.D. is intended to certify. The heart of the matter, as I see it, is to redefine the Ph.D. and the performances required to receive it, so that the degree itself encompasses a vision of scholarly work close to that put forward in "Scholarship Reconsidered."
This is a battle that began a century ago. At the birth of the modern university, Johns Hopkins tried to establish the master's degree as the degree of choice for college teachers, reserving the Ph.D. for those who would make first-rate contributions to original research. But by this time, the master's degree was becoming standardized as the badge of the secondary school teacher, and those planning to become college teachers wanted to differentiate themselves from this group. Hopkins lost, and the Ph.D. became the standard for getting the "better" jobs in college teaching. But the dissertation, the critical final performance required for earning of the Ph.D., is only indirectly and imperfectly related to the task of teaching. (There is a growing body of feeling that it is unrelated to the task of contemporary research as well).
I believe we should seek opportunities to launch re-envisionings of the meaning of the Ph.D. Because changes in practice often precede and pave the way for changes in theory, we should also seek opportunities to support experiments that build assessments of broader aspects of scholarly performance into Ph.D. programs. Some graduate schools, for example, are now helping their graduate students develop teaching portfolios that document and represent their capabilities as teachers. These might be integrated into a larger conception of a doctoral portfolio that would, along with the dissertation and other performances, represent a conception of the new Ph.D.
The second strategy we should pursue is to organize the market to demand a different kind of product from the graduate schools. In the context of a Trusts-funded project sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education, pilot academic departments at various universities are requiring candidates for new appointments to engage in a "pedagogical colloquium"--conceived as the missing counterpart to the job talk that candidates typically give about their research interests when interviewing for an academic appointment. Another example: the Commonwealth Partnership, a consortium of 12 selective Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges, has recently issued "An Open Letter to New Ph.D.'s" about the kinds of competencies they are looking for. Both of these initiatives are deceptively simple undertakings, yet they are beginning to have far-reaching effects. They suggest that this is a ripe moment to initiate a larger program of research and advocacy aimed at stimulating demand for a new kind of graduate education. Such a program would gather data about hiring practices, graduate student placement and the experience of new scholar-professors during their early teaching years. Strategic use of the media to call attention to the idea of the new Ph.D., and the encouragement and dissemination of effective practices like the pedagogical colloquium would also be important tasks of such a program.
Objective 2: Professors to Match Our Missions
Once scholars become faculty members of a particular college or university, their lives and priorities are shaped by the policies and cultures of their employing institutions. Here, the opportunities for investing in constructive change are greater than they are in graduate education because colleges and universities themselves are under growing external pressures to do things differently.
Since the early l990s, two waves of external pressure have raised two different sets of issues and opportunities for change. The first wave, arising from dissatisfaction over faculty neglect of undergraduates at large research universities, prompted a re-examination of the priorities of the professorate. This wave has created opportunities for investing in efforts to change the criteria for faculty advancement and tenure, especially the balance between teaching and research. At most universities, efforts to respond to these pressures for rebalancing attention to teaching and research have been under way for at least five to eight years.
The second, more recent wave of pressure, arising from concerns about rising costs and the effective allocation of resources, has focused on the kinds of appointments faculty hold and the kinds of commitments that faculties and universities should make to each other. The first wave of pressures raised issues about the criteria for awarding tenure, whereas the second wave has raised more basic questions about the concept of tenure itself. As we saw in Chapter III, boards in more than a dozen states recently have wrestled with issues of tenure. In Arizona, California and Florida, new campuses are being established on the condition that tenure will not be an option. Twenty-eight states are now either discussing or implementing new procedures for post-tenure review. More and more institutions are moving toward long-term, nontenure-track appointments and more flexible conceptions of probationary status for tenure.
These two waves create somewhat different opportunities for constructive grantmaking. The current contentious and polarizing debate about tenure cries out for the kinds of interventions that a foundation is classically able to offer—analysis and convenings that set the record straight, efforts to frame the issues in useful ways, and efforts to help constituencies with diverse points of view work through problems and adapt to new realities. As in the case of health care, while spirited arguments fly back and forth about what should be done, the realities of faculty employment are changing rapidly. The Trusts can bring these realities into the debate.
As to point of view, I believe we will be on firm ground if we stress the need for options that achieve better matches between faculty with increasingly diverse lives and interests and institutions with increasingly diverse missions. The idea that the only legitimate faculty career is one that progresses from a research doctorate to a position on a three-rung, tenure-track career path no longer fits the needs of either individual faculty, colleges and universities, or the larger society. We need to blaze new trails.
The useful work we can do in restructuring faculty careers, however, is only part of our larger task. More legitimate career tracks, more flexible options and clearer policies on matters such as post-tenure review are all matters that affect the outer shell of faculty life. They are not the work itself. To comply with new state mandates for post-tenure review, hundreds of faculty over the next five years will be reviewing each other's work. Will these be pro forma, ritualistic exercises, undertaken in the spirit of compliance? Or will these be occasions for genuine interchange over matters of substance, informed by the ideas that teaching is a form of scholarly work and that the "complete" scholar should make contributions to all dimensions of scholarly work?
To address this larger, all-important task, we must look for opportunities to connect the generative work that we will be encouraging on matters such as the scholarship of teaching to the activities—such as mandated post-tenure review—that are being pressed on institutions from the outside. As with the external pressures for assessing student learning that arose a decade ago, the new external pressures to assess faculty performance are a useful stick. But to prompt real improvement, these pressures must be converted into occasions for faculty to realize their own collective aspirations.