7 Things to Know About Leading Academic Transformation

Author: Malcolm Brown
Director, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative

According to an Internet meme, culture eats strategy for lunch. This means that a campus culture exerts a powerful influence, one that can either be beneficial or detrimental to academic transformation. I would suspect that all of us have experienced the inertia that culture can exert, when it acts as an impediment to change.

Presently higher education continues to be under great pressure to change, especially with respect to teaching and learning. This pressure presents itself in two ways: the degree of change and the tempo of change. Higher education is inexperienced with both, which means that cultural issues are sure to be part of any exercise in academic transformation. This by itself calls for skilled academic leadership.

In addition, the collaborative nature of campus support for teaching and learning adds to the challenges of leadership. At most institutions, a cohort of campus organizations, including IT, the center for teaching and learning, the library, the dean’s and provost’s offices—all of these units (and possibly others) are all players in the support and promotion of teaching and learning. Successfully coordinating across these campus groups is an additional dimension of the leadership skill called for today. These factors, taken together, mean that we are in new and somewhat unfamiliar territory.

The ELI has just published a new issue in its 7 Things series on the topic of leadership in teaching and learning: 7 Things You Should Know About Leading Academic Transformation. In this two-page brief, we sketch out this new leadership landscape, addressing its significance as well as its challenges. This issue serves as a key resource for the EDUCAUSE initiative Leading Academic Transformation, a community of program for teaching and learning leaders in a time of transformation. More information on this initiative is available here.

We hope this issue is of value to the community, offering both an initial orientation but also to be a point of departure for campus discussions.


 

Comments

Hi Malcolm, Here at the Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation in the University System of Maryland, we've been studying factors that make it difficult to sustain and expand course redesign, and even harder to make demonstrable improvements in student success through program improvement. Not surprisingly there are a variety of conditions (we're calling them foundations) that can either hinder or support large-scale change in the organization of academic work. Those foundations include: 1) the character of leadership from the top 2) whether there's a history of solving problems by collaborating across silos 3) whether there's a history of discussion, especially among faculty, of fundamental beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning and about the faculty role 4) whether a large fraction of faculty already have experience with elements of learning-centered teaching (e.g., creating effective group work for the classroom and then managing the process) 5) ways in which existing infrastructure helps change (e.g., effective technology services ) or hinder the new mindset and activities (e.g., traditional transcripts that mention topics but not outcomes) 6) how well the institution supports the use of evidence to improve practice (e.g., student feedback procedures that support rather than discourage innovation; learning analytics) 7) faculty personnel policies and practices (e.g., is instruction measured only in one-instructor/one course terms?) No one person or single group or single office can strengthen these foundations alone. Folks in academic technology need to work across silos in order to make progress in these areas - it can't be done any other way.

Steve, you make numerous important points here. Indeed, we agree 100% when you write "Folks in academic technology need to work across silos in order to make progress in these areas - it can't be done any other way." Indeed, we'd suggest that to adequately support teaching and learning, *all* players, not just academic tech, need to work across organizations, in concert, to present a unified support profile to the community. That’s one of reasons we've established our Leading Academic Transformation program: support for teaching and learning is a cohort "affair," which requires unique leadership skills. Thanks for the comment!

This is what need to be taken unto consideration as when it is about education. Transformation is one of prominant areas under education. And words spreaded by you shows what actually values involved.

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