Friday, June 6, 2014

Who Gets to Graduate?

Rich kids. That's the bottom line. If you come out of a 2-parent family, went to a decent school, got mid-range SATs, then you'll be fine. But smart kids that come from disadvantaged backgrounds? Well, not so much. 

Multitudes now enter our higher education system, take out financial aid, and then wander away disheartened, distressed, and disappointed in themselves. Why, you ask? That's a hard question, and the ways of talking about it are legion, but I'm going to make it easy: higher education mostly doesn't care. We want learners to learn the way we learned; we want to blame them for lack of "persistence," faulty "self-motivation," and poor "self-discipline." Those students who don't have grit? Well, they didn't really belong here. 

I was in a webinar/short course, hosted by Dr. Patricia McGee and presented by EDUCAUSE/ ELI, when my heart cracked. Patricia presented research by Stanford-Bowers (2000) on retention factors in online experiences as perceived by three groups in a Delphi-modeled consensus exercise. Bottom line: we think it's the learner's fault and the learner thinks it is about flexible, engaging, relevant, responsive course experiences. Koyaanisqatsi; life out of balance. 

Provided by Dr. Patricia McGee, based on work of Stanford-Bowers, 2008

It doesn't have to be that way. Instead of asking a new generation of Americans going to college to be different, to create their own safety nets, to suffer - we could change change. We could care more. They're trying it at UT Austin, learning to care, learning to change who gets to graduate with surprising results. 

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