The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux
On November 15, 2017, the Office of the President and the Designing the Future(s) Initiative hosted Cathy N. Davidson, PhD, for a discussion of her new book, “The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.” In conversation with Provost Robert Groves, Professor Davidson walked the audience through the evolution of higher education from the 19th century, when Charles Eliot invented many cornerstones of the modern day university, to the present day. She noted that while innovations such as academic departments, grades, credit hours, and entrance exams were appropriate at a time of massive industrial growth, the accessibility of the internet that emerged in the 1990s represents a new and distinct era. Continuing to adhere to these norms acts “as a drag on the impact that higher education has on the world,” wrote Provost Groves in a recent blog post about the event.
During the conversation, Professor Davidson highlighted the importance of the university in increasing social mobility, which she came to understand in a new light when she moved from Duke University, an elite, private institution, to CUNY, a public institution with 24 colleges and graduate schools spread across New York’s five boroughs. If higher education is going to contribute to social mobility in a meaningful way, we must ensure that our pedagogies allow all student voices to be heard. This does not require a complex process driven from the top down; any individual faculty member can make this change happen in their own classroom.
Professor Davidson engaged the audience in an activity that she uses in her classroom to ensure participation of all voices in the room. After providing the group with a prompt (“If you were made king of Georgetown University tomorrow, what are the first three things you would change?”), audience members responded by writing their ideas on index cards, and then sharing their responses with their neighbor. This simple but powerful activity can be used by any faculty member to introduce innovation in the classroom by involving every student in the conversation. Some of the index cards from this activity are posted below. Read more about the event on the Provost’s blog.