A Day of Dichotomies

This is a guest post by Assistant Professor of Clinical Education Helena Seli. Professor Seli directs and teaches in the EdD program. She will be reporting trends and insights from SXSWedu this week. Read her Monday recap: Disruption: For Better or Worse?

In many ways, my second day at the conference was a day of dichotomies. I’ll highlight two.

Learning Outcomes vs. Career Outcomes

In contrast to yesterday’s presentation “Disrupting the Disruption in Higher Education” that looked at prioritizing job skills as potentially “anti-intellectual,” Matt Sigelman from Burning Glass Technologies presented how to stronger align higher education with career-aligned skills in his talk “Not Just Learning Outcomes, Career Outcomes.” Career-aligned skills, Sigelman said, range from evolutionary steps such as adding external experiences to existing degrees (e.g., an anthropology student gaining robust Excel skills to make oneself more marketable) to revolutionary or “disruptive” ways such as organizing existing courses into new programs customized for specific market opportunities. Is it anti-intellectual to emphasize career readiness in an undergraduate program as a priority when the main reason cited by parents and students for attending college is to “get a good job?” The situation is quite different in a graduate school such as USC Rossier, of course, where non-traditional students with specific career goals are the norm. So, colleagues, shall we adopt a very clear two-prong approach by designing career outcomes in addition to learning outcomes?

Making vs. Consuming

3 Doodler in SXSWedu Playground

Basil Kolani from Dwight School presented “What are We Making…and Why Are We Making It?” and talked about how he created makerspaces for his students. What are makers and makerspaces? I too had to Google it. A maker is anyone who engages in learning through doing in a social space, typically in engineering-oriented areas where problem solving is a key skill. Makerspaces are the informal, collaborative learning environments for creation.

Allegorically, it is the space where folks take a box of random Legos and make their own design out of it rather than dutifully following the prescribed steps, essentially called consuming. The key for makers is that learning is enjoyable.

It is interesting to think about implementing some principles of the maker movement in higher education. How can we unlock the creative and innovative spirit in a program that seeks to nurture entrepreneurship such as our EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership? Are we erring too much on the side of our students being consumers if we provide them sound structure in guiding their dissertation process? Is the difference in guiding the process versus dictating the outcome enough for our students to experience being makers in their doctoral learning spaces?

I walk away from today with plans of how to make these potential but not necessary dichotomies live together in my field of practice: designing, developing and teaching courses and programs at Rossier.