ERIC Number: ED499001
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-May
Whatever Happened to Undergraduate Reform? Carnegie Perspectives
Marchese, Theodore J.
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
The author asks whether higher education reform has run out of new things to say. The final two decades of the twentieth century were a remarkable period for innovation in undergraduate education. Many of higher education's earlier waves of reform had focused on curricular issues, on what should be taught. The new reformers by and large ignored curriculum and went to what they considered the heart of the matter, the how of teaching and learning. A host of pedagogies, new and old, sprang to the fore, including collaborative learning, problem-based learning, case-method teaching, classroom assessment, competency-based education, service learning, and undergraduate research. Capstone courses, freshman-year programs, living-learning units, leadership learning, peer tutoring and supplemental instruction, writing and math across the curriculum, and technology-assisted instruction all flourished. To prompt reflection and meta-cognition, student journals and portfolios were introduced. Teaching for "critical thinking" and "problem-solving" became a mantra. Fueling these movements was a massive infusion of foundation dollars: by the late 1990's, foundations were pumping tens of millions of dollars into various projects designed to improve undergraduate education. Every innovation seemed to garner foundation support or a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant, which meant that it had champions funded to spread its message, newsletters and Web sites, demonstration campuses, workshops and retreats, and research. So, what happened? The short version is that the sponsoring foundations withdrew from higher education grant-making (and FIPSE got overwhelmed by earmarks). Compounding that, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) went out of business, wiping out a major platform for undergraduate reform. The events of 9/11 had a chilling effect on optimism for reform. This is not to say that important work on undergraduate reform has ceased, but, for whatever combination of reasons, new ideas now seem in short supply and good as yesterday's ideas may be. The writer expresses concern that by not asking hard, new questions about undergraduate teaching and learning, new intellectual capital is not being produced, and new idea champions are not being hatched. Marchese concludes with unanswered questions: Are we indeed lacking new ideas? Have undergraduate reform efforts stalled? If so, what would it take to change that?
Descriptors: Undergraduate Study, Educational Change, College Instruction, Teaching Methods, Instructional Innovation, Philanthropic Foundations, Federal Programs, Financial Support, Educational Environment, Educational Trends, Professional Associations, Educational Improvement
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 51 Vista Lane, Stanford, CA 94305. Tel: 650-566-5102; Fax: 650-326-0278; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://www.carnegiefoundation.org
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Menlo Park, CA.