December 2, 2014
I’m looking for books or articles on academic change. Can you help?
The sort of books or articles that I’m looking for will hopefully cover the following ground:
Why: Why do our higher education institutions even need to change? This may be a hard question to answer in an industry as diverse as postsecondary education. While every institution is buffeted by long-term cost and demographic trends, it is also true that community colleges, large public R1 institutions, and small highly selective private institutions face a distinct set challenges. Ideally, this book or article would be able to parse the different reasons that change needs to occur at each type of institution. I worry a great deal about public disinvestment in higher education. And I worry about rising student higher ed debt and student attrition. In my world the focus on change is largely around learning. A good book or article on higher ed change will necessarily start with challenges around costs, access, and quality. I’d also be happy with 3 different books or articles that took on these challenges separately.
What: If the why question is all about how come our colleges and universities need to change, the what question is about specifically what needs to change. After all, all of our schools do many things extraordinarily well. Students from all over the world still flock to our campuses. The U.S. higher ed system is acknowledged as the strongest postsecondary system in the world. We have an amazing diversity of institutions, with options ranging from affordable and student-centered community colleges to large public research institutions to small private liberal arts colleges. The most common answer for what needs to change in higher ed seems to be our rising costs. Everyone that I know in any leadership role in higher education is thinking about prices, costs, and value. Beyond issues of student debt and rising higher ed costs, what are the areas that we need to focus most of our energy on change? Is it student learning? Are we talking about the skills traditionally prized at liberal arts institutions, such as leadership and analysis and critical thinking skills? Or are we talking about specific competencies that are closely aligned with employer and job market demands? What are the other specific areas that our colleges and universities need to focus their change efforts? What are the best books or articles that tackle this question?
How: If laying out the why change arguments are hard given the diverse nature of or institutions, think about how difficult any how discussions will be. How can any one book or article provide any practical guidance on academic change given the diversity of our colleges and universities? Maybe there are some deep common threads that run though the largest public and the smallest private? Could one book or article possibly bridge the gap between a school with 50,000 students and one with 1,200? What I’m looking for is some practical advice about leadership from the middle. How can those of us lacking the traditional assets of status and security play important roles in catalyzing the academic change? If you are not a president or dean or a provost, and you don’t have the protections of tenure, what levers and opportunities to help lead change are available? I think any how book on academic change will need to combine a deep understanding of the culture and norms of higher education, with examples of change leadership from adjacent industries. The examples that I know about where academic change has occurred are when charismatic and powerful presidents, such as Paul LeBlanc or Michael Crow, made change happen. Do we have examples of higher ed change beyond these usual suspects? Change that involved faculty and staff not working at the highest levels of their institutions?
What are the best books or articles on leading change that you know about?
Should we be looking outside of the higher ed literature to find lessons in other industries, such as publishing, news, entertainment, health care or the military?
What have you read that has been most helpful in your efforts to be part of higher ed change?
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