It’s no surprise that administrators at the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ conference this month felt that expectations about research and tenure were interfering with the quality of learning. What is surprising is that the solutions proposed are so timid. Fewer lectures will help but it won’t save us.
Several speakers argued that the recession is no reason for colleges to be complacent about the quality of their instruction. “In this time of complete free fall, there are plenty of opportunities to grab,” said Ken O'Donnell, associate dean for academic-program planning in the California State University system's office of the chancellor.
Mr. O'Donnell is working with campuses to adopt what he calls “high-impact practices”—including classroom models that involve more-active student learning and less rote lecturing—in introductory courses where students often struggle.
Those reforms do not involve any substantial expense, he said—and they can reap financial dividends if students' dropout rates decline.
“High-impact practices can change students' lives,” he said.