As head of the Teagle Foundation for six years, Robert Connor didn't have anywhere near the money of the Lumina Foundation for Education or the visibility of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But that didn't stop him and the foundation from working tirelessly, through grants to colleges and many "convenings" of higher education officials, to encourage the "systematic assessment" of what students learn.
While his six-year tenure at Teagle -- which concludes upon his retirement at the end of this year -- overlapped with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and her Commission on the Future of Higher Education, Connor does not see his work at Teagle as fully aligned with the Bush administration's own focus on student learning outcomes, he said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, excerpts of which can be heard in this podcast.
"I'm not a big fan of Ms. Spellings" and her "top-down," government-led approach, Connor said, though he credited her with stimulating the discussion.
Connor said he had seen a significant "change in the environment" in terms of colleges' acceptance of the idea that they need to answer the "how do you know?" questions about what and how much their students are learning. Though many faculty members continue to resist the idea that one can "measure the human soul with numbers," he said, in many ways "the argument has changed."
A podcast of the conversation with Connor can be found here.