John Tagg is an independent writer and consultant on learning in higher education. His book The Learning Paradigm College (Jossey-Bass, 2003), describes a research-based approach to redesigning higher education in the service of student learning and provides detailed examples of colleges and universities that exemplify the Learning Paradigm. According to Russell Edgerton, President Emeritus of the American Association for Higher Education, “this remarkable book takes the national conversation about taking learning seriously to a new level." He has conducted workshops and made presentations at more than 100 colleges and universities and has published in many higher education periodicals including Change, About Campus, Planning for Higher Education, and The International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. He is professor emeritus of English at Palomar College, where he taught from 1982 until 2009.
Is transformative learning just for students? Or can organizations learn to change in ways that fundamentally alter their capacities for the better? Can a university learn to be a better university, not just incrementally, but in ways that enable whole new kinds of engagement with students? In this session, we will consider the governing values that make up an organizational paradigm, and how to change them.
We learn from our mistakes, right? Well, sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes hard tasks lead us to give up, sometimes to try harder. Do we learn more or better from some kinds of mistakes than from others? Do some kinds of mistakes create cognitive dissonance that leads to deeper learning? Do some create disorienting dilemmas that lead to transformative learning? We will explore the extent to which our students learn from their mistakes, and the extent to which we do. We will seek to discover how we can assess our errors, not to avoid them, but to make them productive.
Peter Felten is assistant provost for teaching and learning, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and professor of history at Elon University. At Elon, he works with colleagues on institution-wide teaching and learning initiatives, and on the scholarship of teaching and learning. As a scholar, he is particularly interested in learning and teaching, individual and institutional change, and student experiences and agency in higher education. His books include the co-authored volumes: The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most (Jossey-Bass, 2016); Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014); Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2014); Transformative Conversations (Jossey-Bass, 2013); and the co-edited book Intersectionality in Action (Stylus, 2016). He has served as president of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2016-17) and also of the POD Network (2010-2011), the U.S. professional society for educational developers. He is co-editor of the International Journal for Academic Development and a fellow of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.
Colleges and universities can and should be life-changing places for students. Higher education offers students the chance to learn deeply and broadly, to hone professional and personal skills, and to wrestle with fundamental questions of meaning, purpose, and identity. The potential for individual transformation is immense, as is the possibility of contributing to changes socially, economically, culturally, scientifically, and politically. Too often, however, students drift through the academy, learning little that lasts and missing a unique opportunity to transform themselves and to develop new capacities to enhance our world.
In this interactive session, we will explore how the beliefs that we (faculty and staff) have about learning and expertise shape our educational practices – and how those practices make transformation more, or less, likely for our students. In other words, we will consider how our own assumptions enable or constrain student learning and transformation.
This session will draw on interviews and focus groups with hundreds of students, faculty, and staff who were asked to reflect on their own experiences with learning and teaching in higher education. One theme emerging from this research is the nature of the relationships that contribute to transformative learning. Powerful experiences commonly involve a blurring of the traditional roles in higher education institutions; rather than “student” and “professor” equating with novice and expert, during many transformative experiences the two act as partners in the shared task of learning.
Building from this research, we will consider practical ways that faculty, staff, and students can become partners in the challenging yet essential work of making higher education a transformative experience for all.
Transformative learning can be hard to see as it is happening.
The rearview mirror is one helpful tool for spotting it. While we are speeding through our own lives (or witnessing our students zip through college), we can catch glimpses of significant change here or there. The full picture, however, tends to come into focus only when we have covered enough distance to have a clearer perspective. Looking back, we often can see how the pieces fit together.
Another way we look for transformation is to try to see patterns and trends among a large sample of individuals. This is how educational research often works. Scholars typically cannot tell us if a certain practice (undergraduate research, service learning, and so on) will lead to transformational learning for a particular student, but they can assure us that in general certain experiences yield specific outcomes.
Both the rearview mirror and large-scale research have their uses, but how can individual faculty and staff develop a clear image of transformative learning in their own classrooms and interactions with students? We rarely have the gift of time (“Let me know if 10 years if this helps”) nor do we work with large enough groups of students to effectively identify significant patterns. How can we see what is happening with our students now in ways that can help us challenge and support them in their transformation?
In this workshop, we will use the lens of SoTL (the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) as a way to focus our attention on the processes and products of transformative learning. We may not be able to see the big picture on a day-to-day basis in our classrooms or programs, but what can we see more clearly by taking a scholarly view of learning and teaching? The workshop will introduce novices to some practical SoTL methods that can be applied in many disciplines and contexts, and it will encourage more experienced SoTL scholars to hone their ongoing inquiries. At the end of the workshop, participants will have a sketch of a SoTL project they can use to envision their own students’ transformative learning.