Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Does Higher Education Need? Improved Blocking and Tackling!!

I’ve long felt that higher education is suffering because it’s
strayed from its primary mission—to prepare students for a lifetime of professional and personal opportunities. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, Kent John Chabotar, President Emeritus, Guilford University, captured the essence of this position in criticizing the current love affair with innovation as it’s been deemed the “solution” to what ails the sector. Dr. Chabotar calls on a football metaphor to argue that higher education needs to focus on “blocking and tackling”—fundamentals, in other words.    

He cites unwieldy student-faculty ratios, outdated course offerings, debt, and deferred maintenance as the most critical challenges that need to be addressed before any innovation can be pursued.

The bottom line for me is a focus on teaching and learning. Are we teaching what’s current, future-oriented, and critical for student success after college? Are we doing so effectively? Are we adequately supporting educators in this process? Conversely, how can we help students fully benefit from the entirety of their educational experience?


There are many related questions, some of which I’ve addressed here, here, and here. In short, like Dr. Chabotar, I’m a higher education fundamentalist. I got into this field to work with students, ideally to make a difference in their lives inside and outside the classroom. My fervent hope is that institutions whose students I serve will support me in this effort.

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