Monday, March 30, 2015

Temple Cleansing Thought

The Gospels as a whole are not entirely clear on the chronology, but in Mark Jesus seems to cleanse the temple on Monday.

Sanders thought Jesus was symbolically predicting the destruction of the temple, but it is interesting that none of the Gospels directly connect this action with the prediction of its destruction later on (e.g., Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). This suggests to me that the earliest Christians did not initially see it that way.

But it does seem like Jesus is making some kind of sweeping critique of the way the temple is being run. The temple once again has become a "den of thieves," evoking Jeremiah 7.

Some take-aways from Mark 11:
  • God's house is open for everyone seeking him. ("house of prayer for all nations")
  • Anger in itself is not sin. It's what you do with it.
  • Just because you have the title ("Christian," "pastor") doesn't mean you have the favor.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Thought

What were the disciples thinking today? Were they thinking that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to become the king of Israel? Were they thinking that the kingdom of God was about to erupt in full force?

They were right about the destination, but wrong about the timing. Jesus would reign. He would be king, but not before he had gone through Friday.

Sometimes the path to victory goes through trial, and there is no other way to get there but to walk the difficult path ahead.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Curriculum and Novel Idea

A well-known President of a nearby university once had an idea for a marketplace where a student might convert life and learning experiences into college credit. This was over a decade ago and it was an idea before its time. We see movement in that direction by places like WGU and Southern New Hampshire, who grant a certain amount of "credit by assessment" or "credit by competency."

I had another idea for a novel this week. Not one that would probably be of interest to anyone but nerds like me, but one that could actually be a university curriculum. What if you took the detailed outcomes of a liberal arts education and allowed certain exceptional students to achieve them on their own? I hate that what came to my mind could only be achieved either by those with means or a system with massive financial underwriting.

But what if, to learn world history, you went to study with mentors in various parts of the world? There on site, you could also learn relevant discoveries in science and math, as well as the philosophies of the people there? You would be exposed to the key languages of the world and could be required to learn some basics of each.

What an amazing curriculum that would be! Certainly something I could create in a novel. But it's actually something that some entrepreneurial university could pilot as well. I know there are components of this sort of thing already being done.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Integrating Collegiate Cultures

The last five posts have wandered through Bergquist and Pawlak's 2008 book, Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy. I've expanded their six cultures into four different emphases colleges frequently have and then six variations on those emphases.

Four Key Emphases
1. A research emphasis
Institutions and faculty with a research emphasis see the university primarily as a place were truth is pursued for its own sake. It tends to be a very modernist emphasis that pictures faculty as objective investigators of truth who pursue it by scientific methods. The legitimacy of disciplines that cannot be pursued by such methods are questioned. The assumption is that if you hire excellent enough faculty, they will objectively arrive at more or less the same conclusions if they are given full academic freedom. The origins of this approach are German.

2. A formational emphasis
The origins of this approach are British. The formational approach historically has seen the college as a place where the values of young people are formed for life. This approach tends to be that of the small liberal arts college or the small Christian college. The college exists in loco parentis and continues the formation that started at home in preparation for launch to the real world. The proposal of Steve Lennox for Wesleyan higher education falls into this category in viewing Wesleyan colleges as "sanctifying contexts."

3. A teaching emphasis
With background in the Catholic school, institutions like IWU in the past saw teaching as the primary task of the college. It is not that faculty research was not valued. It was just something some professors did on the side or in the summer. During the contract months, faculty were teachers. They taught a base amount of 24 credit hours a year and the door was wide open for as many overloads as they could handle. You tried to hire "thoroughbreds" who could teach lots of different courses and a lot of them, with little thought for class size.

4. A vocational emphasis
Growing out of the community college, some colleges focus on training students to be able to get jobs once they graduate. This is no doubt the emphasis that most of the public see as the obvious purpose of education. For those parents who are not interested in the formational piece, they likely send their children to college with this goal in mind.

Six Variations
1. A pedagogical culture
An extension of the teaching emphasis can be a managerial focus on course outcomes, course design, and course assessment. Courses come to have a heavy administrative component. In excess, they become highly prescripted and filled with busy work that is a burden to both student and faculty.

2. A developmental culture
Colleges can extend a formational culture to where there is a heavy emphasis on student or faculty development. In excess, a culture can develop where the faculty feels like the university exists to serve them or students are strung along who simply are not college material. In excess, a healthy concern for development can become paternalistic.

3. An advocacy culture
Some colleges have a strong advocacy culture, whether it be for conservative or liberal causes. In conservative circles, these colleges tend to advocate for traditional values or conservative political causes. In other circles they may advocate for people of color, women, or some other people group.

4. A distributive culture
Some colleges have a strong culture of expansion and innovation enabling expansion. It is an impulse to take education to the student rather than expecting the student to come to the university. It is usually accompanied by an online program and may dream of a global reach.

5. A virtual culture
Online programs tend to develop a culture of their own. They are especially susceptible to a pedagogical and developmental flavor.

6. A tangible culture
In reaction to the rise of virtual culture and at times in opposition to it, colleges can develop a tangible culture that puts a primacy on face-to-face education. Alternatively, distinct tangible cultures can develop to maximize the distinct strengths of face-to-face education in competition with online education.
_______________________________________
Integrating Collegiate Cultures
So how should these varied cultures fit together at your typical Christian college?

1. I come back to the fundamentals. A college is an educational business. It has potential customers, and it has products. Legitimately, there are different kinds of colleges with different kinds of emphases. So each college needs to decide what its core products and priorities are:
  • vocations
  • formation
  • cutting edge knowledge
For most "customers," jobs are going to sell the most, the hope of good or better employment. For a smaller subset, formation sells. For an elite subset, cutting edge research sells.

If I were to give advice to the typical Christian college, I would advise that they focus on selling careers within a solid formational context.
2. From a Christian perspective, the formational element is the most important, even if it is neither the primary draw nor the primary task. The primary task of an educational institution is surely education by way of teaching.

But a Christian college will, as Steve Lennox has argued, be a "sanctifying context," one in which students and faculty alike grow closer to God and grow in love for their neighbor. It is a good goal for students to grow in virtue while they are there (the pedagogical culture sometimes resists these sorts of intangible goals because they are hard to assess).

And I believe that a good college will subvert its students by subjecting them to the liberal arts, making them better and more enlightened people against their wills. :-) They'll be glad for it if it happens, even though they might not have signed up to become more profound human beings.

3. The mechanisms for teaching and formation will lead to care with regard to pedagogy and development, hopefully without veering into obsession. Advocacy is only as important as the inequity or imbalance of the institution. However, a college that stands for something stands to gain those who stand for those same things.

Good teachers will stay abreast of the research in their fields. Although most professors at the average Christian college should have teaching contracts, it is perfectly reasonable to put a few exceptional ones on a research contract with less teaching.

Tenure is a controversial issue that must be taken into account for purposes of competition for faculty, but it is really the stuff of a research more than a teaching faculty. And it was really designed for a very modernist and non-confessional context. My recommendation is that it be reserved only for the most exceptional of research faculty and that it not be the norm. In the end, it really has no significance whatsoever other than perception.

Faculty whose behavior or research is outside the moral or ideological limits of an institution can still be fired. Faculty on multi-year contracts still cannot be terminated without cause. The notion that you are not accountable for your work or ideas after a certain point is fundamentally irresponsible and seems destined to be done away with over time. It makes little objective sense, but perception is reality too.

4. Colleges with a distributive and a virtual culture are more likely to survive than those that are banking solely on a tangible one. If you expect students to come to your campus, you had better have something distinctive going on there or have a clear niche market. But mistakes can be made in expansion that tank a place too, like investing too much in an expansion that doesn't materialize or not providing sufficient infrastructure for expansion, resulting in implosion.

At least that's the way I see it... :-)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cultures 5 and 6: Virtual and Tangible Cultures

1. The 2008 expanded edition of Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy includes two additional cultures: virtual and tangible cultures. I won't summarize the previous emphases and cultures in this post, because I hope to synthesize it all tomorrow. But here is the trail of bread crumbs.

The advent of online education, the ability to teach at a distance through technology, has revolutionized education. Hanna has called it part of an "entrepreneurial" culture. Bergquist and Pawlack connect it to an interest in global education, so perhaps we could call it a global culture, although the limitations of the international context are still somewhat restrictive in this regard. There is also something to be said for a distance emphasis that is not virtual but involves taking education to people. So there is a collection of elements here that may stand better classification than Bergquist and Pawlack have given.

The rise of the virtual and distance culture is arguably giving rise to a sixth culture--tangible culture. When the only option was face-to-face, being onsite was not a distinct culture (I'm taking a position here on a debate). But now in response to the rise of virtual culture, there come to be distinctives of an onsite education over and against a virtual or even a distance one. I believe this culture is in its formative stage, but my experiences suggest some thoughts on where it might go.

2. First, although I agree that there are distinct issues relating to virtual education, I think we might divide chapter 5 into one emphasis and one culture. I would like to call the emphasis a distributive emphasis that some colleges and universities can have. You might call it a "missionary" culture.

Online education is just one mode, even if the predominant mode, in an orientation toward bringing education to the student rather than bringing the student to the education. I believe that those institutions that will be most successful going forward will heavily tend to be those involved in distance education of some sort. With more and more options for students to stay where they are, especially adult students, residential campuses come to dominate less and less.

Online is only one way to achieve the distribution of education. The branch campus has of course been around for a long time. But there is also the intensive class, where the students either come to campus for a week or you go to some convenient location near them for a few days. A hybrid class might start off in a face-to-face format and then finish online (or go online for a while only to end in a face-to-face closing).

This impulse to distribute one's education beyond the residential campus can involve a certain missionary mindset, a drive to see education get out. It can reach globally, either by taking the education to a foreign country physically or virtually. There are distinct issues with global virtual education, chiefly bandwidth and reliable internet. Many think the future of global education will involve the smart phone. The cell phone is omnipresent in Africa, for example.

3. Even though virtual education is a subset of a distributive mindset, it has tended to give rise to its own unique culture. Online education has facilitated the rise of the pedagogical and paternalistic cultures to dominance. Since there was so much skepticism about online education in its inception, individuals involved with it bent over backwards to demonstrate that, in fact, the learning was taking place.

There's mud on the face of those who reacted so strongly against online education fifteen years ago. Where are they now? Are their colleges even still open?

I came across a quote a few weeks ago that you don't need to worry about someone stealing a good idea. Rather, people tend to fight tooth and nail against them. My friend Keith Drury suggested the pattern is that they fight them. Then they fight them even harder. Then after it succeeds they attribute its success to some failure of the world. Then they adopt it.

I don't know why people worry about what others think. Be the benchmark. Don't worry about what others are doing if a group of you believe you have a good idea.

4. There are two approaches to online education. One leans a little more traditional and tends to be done by academic institutions that consider themselves of a higher quality. The other is designed for greater distribution and tends to draw more heavily on adjuncts.

So when I taught online for Asbury, each adjunct created his or her own courses from scratch. Asbury thus expected its adjuncts to be of the kind of quality that they might have teach a course on campus if you lived in the area. Your syllabus had of course to be approved by someone, but you were largely trusted to create your own course.

The other model, which is used at IWU, creates most online courses ahead of time. (In the Seminary, I created a space for full-time professors in rare occasions to create their own online courses without assistance.) In the design of a course, a content expert is brought into connection with an instructional designer. The result was meant to bring the best of three worlds together: 1) the content expertise of a faculty person, 2) the pedagogical expertise of an instructional designer, and 3) the teaching expertise of the actual course facilitator.

Initially, IWU called such teachers "facilitators" rather than professors. That's because their primary task is to facilitate learning and discussion rather than to bring content expertise themselves. We have since moved away from that terminology and I changed it from the beginning of the Seminary. But you can see that the teacher of a pre-created course can but does not have to have as much expertise in the course content as the traditional professor was expected to have.

So this second approach to online education creates the possibility for a certain "adjunct" culture, where perhaps the majority of courses are taught by part-time teachers.

5. You can see how online education has facilitated the rise of the managerial and what I have called a pedagogical culture. Timeliness and feedback become the most important pieces of the puzzle, since the professor is not standing in front of the student. The need for support systems becomes essential. Off Campus Library Services, virtual writing labs, attention to retention issues all become very important.

In a good online class, the average faculty to student interaction will be greater than in a face-to-face situation. The reason is because you cannot hide at the back of a virtual classroom. If you do not engage, you fail. And professors are expected to engage on an individual level, meaning that online education requires much more of a professor than face-to-face. Administrative skills become much more important.

Community can definitely exist in a virtual world. The cohort model, for example, takes the same group of students through a degree program together, which increases community and retention. If such a group is launched in a face-to-face context, the cohesion is even greater. Again, traditional classrooms put random students together class by class. So in this respect, the virtual community of any one class is usually greater online than onsite.

6. In the face of this onslaught, residential campuses will no doubt reinvent themselves. A friend of mine has suggested that, where equivalent onsite and online programs options exist side by side, the online options will eventually kill the onsite ones. The clear implication is that there must be some clear advantage to the onsite campus that counterbalances the convenience of online.

For the typical undergraduate context, the clear advantage is student life. Surely a sizable percentage of college students don't really go to college for the education anyway. They go for the party. So Indiana University is in no danger of losing its undergraduate campus.

Smaller and more obscure colleges will need something else, some other distinctive. Academic reputation is a possibility for some. Clearly Christian colleges will attract with the promise of a certain kind of formation or perhaps shielding (you can sell an anti-party context to many parents). There needs to be some distinctive "sell," though. What can a student get by coming here that they won't get online?

The sell can't be idealistic. Money wins. "I'd sure love to come to campus but I've got to work." The liberal arts aren't going to cut it in most cases. "Our campus has a roller coaster that runs through the dorms. You can ride it to class," is more what the doctor ordered. "Come join a battle." There has to be something that taps into strong human impulses if you want to beat the practicalities of money and convenience, not to mention those who are tapping into those strong human impulses.

No doubt "tangible" cultures will develop rapidly to compete with virtual and distance ones. It will be exciting to see what they come to look like.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Academic Cultures 4: Advocacy Culture

1. The fourth chapter of Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy looks at what Bergquist and Pawlack call an "advocacy culture. I've been reworking their categories to create a list of emphases that exist not only for universities as a whole but, perhaps more importantly, as different unexamined streams within the same university. Getting these out in the open, I think, might really help a university become more intentional about what direction it takes.

So far, here is the list I've developed out of Bergquist and Pawlack's book:
  • The research emphasis - sees the primary goal of a university as the advancement of knowledge by its professors by way of scholarship, publication. Emphasizes academic freedom.
  • The formation emphasis - sees the primary goal of a university as the formation of young people, making them "educated" or "virtuous" or "Christian." So there might be an emphasis on the liberal arts or on core Christian values.
  • The vocational emphasis - sees the college as a place where people are prepared to get a job and thus be able to support themselves through life
  • The teaching emphasis - sees the primary task of a college as teaching. Professors tend to have high loading and may teach extensive overloads.
  • The pedagogical culture - I am calling this an extreme form of a teaching culture or a managerial culture, where a healthy practice of setting outcomes and assessing them becomes an obsessive preoccupation. Too much detail, overkill on busy-work to be assessed, and a lack of allowance for spontaneity takes over.
  • The paternalistic culture - Again, a healthy concern for developing faculty and students can become oppressive with a bureaucracy of hoops to jump through and an unhealthy narcissism on the part of faculty.
You'll notice that I've begun to distinguish between core emphases a university or part of a university might have and "cultures," now going with the language of the book.

2. Chapter four introduces another culture, an "advocacy" culture. If I have understood this culture correctly, it is a culture that focuses on standing up for something. This emphasis can be either conservative or liberal. All it needs is a cause.

This culture might advocate for different things depending on its context. So it might advocate for anything from people of color to political causes to issues of sexuality. Young people often have significant energies in these areas to harness.

So there are colleges that feed off conservative political angst or anger. They recruit students who want to stand against liberalism or who want to stand for holiness as their subculture understands it. They want to fight against the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

Opponents of a certain different kind of advocacy culture might call it a "politically correct" culture, but there are all kinds of advocacies. And they are simply different expressions of the same human impulse to fight for or against something.

3. In an IWU context, there may be students or individual faculty who are strongly motivated by politics, but IWU does not, in my sense of things, have an advocacy culture that centers on politics. Although IWU has a strongly Republican constituency, this is not an area in which IWU advocates or recruits.

Because of its religious convictions, IWU strongly affirms that all people are valuable in God's eyes, regardless of their orientation, but it does not advocate for anything more than the necessity to love all people in this area. The equality of women is assumed at IWU, and certainly the theological faculty at the university would be fully egalitarian rather than complementarian. We would advocate strongly for that but it does not seem to be a problem at IWU in general.

So the area in which IWU is currently a strong advocate is in its multi-ethnic push. Across the university right now is a strong push to hire more faculty of color and to recruit more students of color.

4. This is a noble aim and a more diverse campus holds the hope of a more rich environment. There are of course dangers. If your base culture is not diverse, then diversity must come from outside your culture. That immediately changes your culture. The hope is of course that such changes are positive, but it also runs the risk of changing features of prior culture that were actually strengths or distinctives.

It would be unreflective to think that diversity in itself is intrinsically more valuable than every feature of prior culture that you might lose. So hiring for diversity must be done with great intentionality. There is a great deal of unreflectivity in this area, it seems to me, in an advocacy culture. The effort necessary to bring diversity to an institution in a healthy way is extremely hard work.

Another key caution is that a poor hire in the name of diversity actually sabotages the overall cause. It is essential that diversity hires be just as competent as whatever non-diversity persons they might be in competition with. Otherwise it demeans those of color that you are trying to hire and reinforces prejudices of inferiority. I know a situation where an entire program was more or less sabotaged for ten years because of an inappropriate diversity hire.

5. Advocacy is a core Christian value because it is an expression of the love of our neighbor. But it can be done in smart ways and in not so reflective ways.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Academic Cultures 3: Developmental Cultures

1. In the last couple posts, I've been looking at Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy, but cooking the categories a little differently.

a. the research emphasis - sees faculty research at the center of a university, emphasizes academic freedom

b. the formational emphasis - sees college in terms of forming students in some way, whether through the liberal arts, Christian worldview, or some other set of core values (e.g., Lennox's "sanctifying context")

c. the vocational emphasis - sees college primarily in terms of equipping students to get a job

d. the pedagogical emphasis - focuses on extensively delineated outcomes, expectations, and assessments as the key focus of the academy

Chapter 3 is about what Bergquist and Pawlack call a "development" culture. Looking into this chapter, I can see that what I have called a "pedagogical" emphasis really relates more to what they are talking about in this chapter. (In their view, the developmental culture grew out of the managerial culture as they talk about it.)

2. So to create another category that relates more directly to the other dimension of chapter 2, how about the teaching emphasis

This emphasis refers to the institution that focuses extensively on teaching, where faculty are not so much expected to write or do research as to teach. So it is not uncommon at institutions like this one for the basic loading for a professor to be outrageously high from the perspective of a faculty member at a research institution. Beyond this basic teaching, such professors may also do a lot of overload teaching beyond the minimum expectation. This extra teaching may compensate to some degree for the lower salary such faculty usually have in comparison to faculty at research institutions.

Certainly when I first came to IWU, it was solidly a teaching institution. For undergraduate professors, the basic loading is 24 credit hours a year. For master's level courses it is 21 credit hours a year, and it is 18 credit hours a year on the doctorate level. Overloads were rampant when I came.

I would strongly defend the legitimacy of this approach, as I would the legitimacy of most of the others as well.  The key to me is that we not pick just one and say all the others are wrong. There are those who like to teach, and there are those who like to teach a lot. And there are those who do it well.

Frankly, I do not think even a majority of professors these days will ever produce much of any lasting significance in the area of research. We like to think that we are all researchers, but most professors will be most useful if they know and communicate the truly best research of the time rather than trying to be part of the front edge of research in our areas.

If we think of the university as a business, with students as the primary customer, then those who choose to teach more than research should be highly valued. Faculty with a focus on research should probably be a minority in most colleges today, because only a small number will contribute enough to the reputation of the college to offset the more obvious value of good teaching.

3. So if what I have called a "pedagogical emphasis" is part of the developmental culture of chapter 3, I want to call another emphasis implied by this chapter a paternalistic emphasis.

The chapter is about a culture that emphasizes student, faculty, and employee development in general. This is a good thing, despite the fact that I am seeing the dangers. So it is good to be clear about what the outcomes of a class are, to make expectations clear, and then to assess and confirm that in fact you have met those outcomes.

What worries me is what I see as a tendency to go to the opposite extreme in what I called a pedagogical culture. Too much is detailed and not enough room is given to professors whose classes are more spontaneous. Not only that, but there can be an implicit distrust of professors to do what they say they are doing, not to mention an obsession with administrivia.

4. So also, the idea of supporting faculty in their development is a good thing. It is a service to the employees of the university. If we want professors to be better teachers, then it makes sense to offer seminars to help them. We give them allowances to go to conferences and reward them when they produce scholarship. That all sounds like good practice.

My worry is again what might happen in the extreme. Millennials already grew up with helicopter parents who hovered over them. Dare we say that this fosters a sense of entitlement, expecting service. Employment can be like a wake up call in this regard.

I remember hearing a story of a millennial who took a job as a staff pastor and was a little disappointed that the senior pastor, a boomer, didn't spend more time mentoring him. The advice given was that now that he had a job, mentoring was now his job to do more than to receive.

So what happens when millennials start becoming professors, as they are? Is it possible that they will expect the university to revolve around them? Is it possible that they will have a tendency to see the university as existing for them rather than them for the university. Perhaps now they will subconsciously assess their bosses by how well they serve them.

You can see that this attitude in combination with the collegial culture is deadly. Being a professor comes to be about the university doing all it can do to support their research. Indeed, isn't the university privileged to have them there thinking deep thoughts? Shouldn't I be rewarded for every little thing I do?

Suffice it to say, I'm not too sympathetic to that sort of culture. Even fifteen years ago, we created courses and no one paid us anything. We made new course preps, bought the books, and considered it part of the job. Didn't they hire us because we already knew a little something? Some of us didn't need to be rewarded to write, and we certainly didn't turn in little piddly things that hardly pass for scholarship.

Those of us who teach these days are all fortunate to have a job. There are plenty of others who would love to take our place. All of us could be easily replaced. The administration is not our servant. It is our employer, our boss. We work for the institution, and our primary work is to teach students.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Academy Cultures 2: The Managerial Culture

1. Yesterday I did some exploration of the first chapter Bergquist and Pawlak's, Engaging the Six Cultures of the Academy. I am building my own synthesis off their book's content. Three theses that emerged yesterday were 1) that strikingly different assumptions are present within a university like IWU about what the goals and mission of a university are, 2) that these assumptions are usually held unreflectively--people just assume them in conflict with each other without realizing they are not actually self-evident or beyond critique, and 3) that universities are, when all is said and done, businesses.

The last point is the rock bottom truth. A university can have all the wrong goals from some point of view; it can be of horrible academic quality from some point of view; but if it is financially sustainable, it eats your "quality" institution for lunch. You close. You die. No one remembers you. But the sustainable business lives and continues to reproduce.

2. I believe yesterday's chapter on what they call a "collegial culture" is really better divided into two distinct perspectives on higher education that are themselves potentially two different sets of cultural assumptions:
  • I'm going to call one a formational model. This is the in loco parentis model ("in place of the parent"). This tends to be the liberal arts model and is often the model for the small Christian college. It derives from British and Scottish educational influences. It's target audience is youth in its formative adulthood.
  • The second model might be called the research model. It tends to be faculty research focused and can almost ignore the student in the process. The individual faculty is pursuing truth with complete academic freedom and the lucky student gets to watch. It derives from German influences and puts a high premium on publication.
3. Today's chapter addresses what it calls a "managerial" culture. It's cultural sources, according to these authors, are Catholic education and the community college.

So Catholic education arose to serve immigrants who were coming in the mid-1800s and were somewhat scorned by the broader society. It had a bureaucratic character to it, focused on teaching and had a goal of preparing the student for advancement in society.

The community college had some similar focus in that it aimed to train a local individual to get a job. It was thus focused on training the student to do something that could be a vocation.

4. As with the last chapter, I would like to re-present this chapter with what I see as two additional models that are often in play within a single educational institution:
  • I'm calling the first the vocational model. This model sees the college or university as a place of training and preparation to get a job. It flows naturally from the community college strand.
  • The second I'd like to call the pedagogical model. This view of the university sees it primarily as a place where good teaching and learning takes place. This flows naturally from the Catholic strand of American education.
5. The vocational model is almost diametrically opposite to the liberal arts model, and the social origins of these two are quite different. The vocational model emerged from the lower end of the social system, where individuals were looking to move up the social chain. By contrast, the liberal arts college was often the stomping grounds of the upper class, whose eventual financial security was more or less guaranteed and, thus, whose education could focus more on luxury, namely, the arts and cultural formation.

There is, I think, a prevailing assumption by those outside the academy that the primary purpose of college is to prepare students to get a job. This is, after all, what sells a college the most to parents. Parents aren't interested in funding the research of an expert on monarch butterflies unless it will help their daughter get a job somehow. And parents aren't always interested in their son learning Shakespeare.

Since college is a business, these are realities that have to factor into how a college presents itself, like it or not. It doesn't matter that a faculty member thinks he or she knows what they should be interested in. I know that Latin can change a student for the better. But few parents are going to pay for their son or daughter to go to college to learn Latin. Like it or not, reality doesn't care. The wise man builds his house upon the rock.

6. The pedagogical model sees the primary function of the college as teaching and thus of student learning. This was an important corrective to the academy, the rise of the educrats. In the old days:
  • In the old days, professors may or may not have given a student a syllabus for a class. Perhaps the professor would give a reading assignment at the end of class or announce a writing assignment due in a week. You more or less found out what came next as you went along.
  • You might only have one test at the end of the class or one paper. Your grade might show up and you have no idea how you got it. Grading was more or less up to the whim of the professor.
  • Curriculum was more or less a set of required courses. There was no real accountability for what a professor taught in those courses. There was no way of knowing whether the students actually learned anything other than their grades.
It's important to me to say that those days weren't a waste. In fact, wouldn't we normally say that the level of learning was higher in the past than today? Just because you don't have any evidence doesn't mean that learning didn't take place. Anecdotal evidence is only hearsay, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily wrong.

There have been a lot of improvements in the last two decades:
  • All courses now are expected to have syllabi, a kind of binding arrangement between faculty and student.
  • Courses ideally list the "outcomes" of the course on the syllabus. These are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions you should be able to demonstrate at the end of the class.
  • Degree programs should be accessed by way of artifacts in key courses. Data is collected and evaluated.
There is no doubt that these changes are positive. The danger is when this "managerial culture" lets a certain educrat personality go too far. Systems of measurement become an end in themselves. Assessment might try to reach its hands down into every single course every single time in an obtrusive way. Endless data is generated and analyzed. Welcome to the culture of obsessive, pedagogical navel gazing.

At present, most universities recognize that they need to be able to demonstrate that their programs generally do what they say they do. So we hire an Assessment Officer or give load release to that odd faculty person who really loves this sort of thing. Perfectly appropriate.

The danger is when this personality gets too much control and tries to force every professor to become an educrat just like them. Faculty become administrators. Suddenly all the fun is sucked out of teaching for all but those with that particular personality--and it isn't necessarily the personality that students most enjoy or come to university to study with. Students find themselves doing a lot of busy-work that, in the end, doesn't serve their learning but serves the machine wanting artifacts to assess.

Syllabi get longer and longer, like a book, and the likelihood that a student will read it gets less and less. This subculture of the university is especially prevalent among professors of primary and secondary education, who are used to the paperwork of the public school. Instructional designers, if they are tasked to create preformed online classes, also have a tendency to be of this personality and background.

Education becomes one incredibly complex bureaucracy full of complex systems and processes of assessment. Again, I completely affirm the right of certain faculty and disciplines to do things this way. The problem is the unexamined assumption that those who do not do it this way are somehow deficient and need to be fixed.

7. Here are some of the just plain wrong assumptions here:
  • Not all personalities want endless details. In fact, many shut down when confronted with too many. Many personalities need to see the big picture and then fill in the details later.
  • Responsibility is not the same as learning. Educrats tend to reward the responsible, those who jump through pre-set hoops on time, perhaps even more than those who actually learn. There is a tendency to give full credit for doing what is asked rather than for excellence in thinking.
  • There is a latent positivist hangover, as if a tree doesn't make a sound unless someone is there to hear it. Assessment is good practice, and it is preferable that outcomes be accessible. But just because we don't or can't assess something, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
  • Intuitive assessment takes place all the time among quality professors. Most of the time, this kind of self- and peer assessment is far more valuable than numbers on a spreadsheet.
There should be a basic trust extended to professors, a presumption of the benefit of the doubt until something prompts more detailed investigation. The presumption of a university should be that if a professor teaches in a classroom, learning takes place. Otherwise, we have failed in our hiring, and it is our fault, not the faculty person's.

Bottom line: No one personality in the academy should have the gall to think everyone else should be like it, especially if the students are happy. ESTJs are not better educators than INFPs.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Six Cultures of the Academy 1: Collegial Culture

1. I'm intrigued by this 2008 book, which is an expansion of an earlier 1992 book.

I think the nature of the academy is in flux, and there is something about this book that is helping me delineate what you might call clashes of culture within the current university and seminary landscape.

2. When you dig into the first chapter of this book, it quickly becomes apparent that "traditional" education models in the United States themselves are not monolithic and involve a diverse set of influences. But Bergquist and Pawlak largely summarize a "collegial culture" as discipline and faculty research oriented. It conceives "of the institution's enterprise as the generation, interpretation, and dissemination of knowledge" (15).

There are different strands of traditional academia. The British and Scottish strands tend to live on in smaller liberal arts colleges, where the student environment was carefully controlled (in loco parentis) and there was an emphasis on the liberal arts. Contrast this with the German model that became very influential in the 1800s, focusing on a powerful faculty whose job is to generate knowledge in their areas of focus. The research institution has inherited the heightened German sense of academic freedom and faculty autonomy.

3. My sense is that many if not most of the players in my college context have unexamined assumptions about what it is that a university is about. As a Dean I have heard repeatedly the rallying cry for "shared governance," but there is no timeless dictate from God on what that necessarily should look like. For those who come to the university setting from outside academia, the power that faculty as employees have within the typical university is shocking. Indeed, it often seems inappropriate to outsiders.

The current climate in American education has made one thing overwhelmingly clear. More than anything else, a college, university, or seminary is a business. This is fundamental because it relates to the bottom-line existence of these institutions. You can have a great mission, but if you cannot pay your bills, you will cease to exist. But you can have a bad mission and continue to exist. This suggests that whatever mission or purpose one may ascribe to an institution of higher learning, it is a less essential component than solid business practices.

4. So a research institution can choose to exist to generate and perpetuate knowledge for its own sake. But it can only exist for this purpose if it can generate enough revenue to cover its expenses. A liberal arts or Christian college can choose to exist to inculcate a certain set of values in young people. But it can only exist for this purpose if it can generate enough revenue to cover its expenses.

But there is no single, obvious raison d'etre for all colleges. Each institution must decide what it exists for and, if it can sustain itself in some way financially, no one can say its purpose is illegitimate. A college could exist to help its students gain the kinds of skills that will get them a job. I suspect this type of purpose is most likely to make an institution financially viable.

But of course it would be unreflective to insist that this is the only legitimate purpose for a college. The generation of knowledge is a legitimate purpose for a university. The making of better human beings is a legitimate purpose. It is narrow-minded to think that we must choose one of these. Pish-posh ignorance. If a college can generate enough revenue to continue to exist for a particular purpose, so be it.

5. The role of the faculty in an institution of higher learning therefore cannot be reduced to a "one size fits all" either. This relates to a fundamental blind spot both of some faculty and administration. It is not obvious that the purpose of a faculty member is to generate research and scholarship. That is the German cultural model but it is not an absolute model. It is ignorance to think that is obviously what a faculty person is supposed to be or do.

The same of course goes to teaching. I know a seminary that has no students. Its faculty only do research. It would be just as ignorant to say that this sort of institution is illegitimate as it would be to say that an institution where the faculty do not publish but only teach is illegitimate. As long as the institution is breaking-even financially, it is a legitimate business.

6. Accreditation and the standards by which the government dispenses loans are clearly a factor in the viability of academic institutions because they affect the bottom line of an institution. But if students wanted to pay to go to a place that had no recognition of quality from these normal means, what could we ultimately say?

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary is the largest seminary in the United States. It has chosen not to be accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, although it is regionally accredited through Liberty University. Yet what are other seminaries to say? The students have voted with their feet.

7. My point is that the traditional, "collegial" model, while completely legitimate, is not absolute in any way, shape, or form. The contours of the college of the future are up for grabs. There is no absolute standard for the role or expectations of faculty. The ultimate reality that trumps all other realities is the fact that education is a business. Period.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Types of Scholarship

I had this thought last week.

1. On a popular level in the US, there is a good deal of skepticism toward scholarship. I suspect there are a number of reasons. Some of it seems ridiculous. Some of it seems threatening. Some of it seems irrelevant. Some of it seems incomprehensible.

2. As a card carrying "scholar," I would say that a good deal of scholarship probably is bunk, especially in an age where it is easier than ever to get letters after your name. At the Society of Biblical Literature, how many of the papers are worth much? 15%? I don't know.

I personally think my own guild, the guild of biblical studies, is in an "ahistorical" phase, like it was back in the days of Bultmann and Barth. Since history isn't going anywhere, I know this will eventually turn around and smack this generation of scholars in the face. That might be after I'm retired. I could do it, but "not everything is beneficial."

3. I think some scholarship is more or less poetic. A scholar has come up with an intellectually, elegant way of saying something that, really, has more or less already been said. To be sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and most people are not likely to find much erudition of this sort very interesting or relevant. And maybe it isn't. Maybe it is just truth for truth's sake.

Worthy, because all truth is God's truth. But not a priority. A luxury.

4.  Some scholarship truly advances the discussion in a particular area. This is the stuff I like. What percentage of scholarship falls in this category? 5%? I don't know.

This kind of scholarship is riding the wave of the current tide. This is why discoveries like calculus can suddenly appear in two places at about the same time and neither Newton nor Leibniz be plagiarizing.

5. A good deal of scholarship is relevant to ordinary life, but it may need what Halee Scott once called "stair runners." By this phrase she meant good teachers who could understand high level scholarship but who could bring it down the stairs to communicate it in a relevant and intelligible form.

Some thoughts...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

30. Where is Wesley going?

You'll be happy to know that I've reached the end of this hundred page journey through the story of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University as I have experienced and reflected on it. I leave the story with hopefulness for the future.

1. I predict my departure will work out for good. Every couple years, something needs to happen to change things up, to provoke a new look at things. What things was I doing that would be better for others to do? What things wasn't I doing that someone different will do? Where do I have blind spots that new eyes will see?

2. It wouldn't be bad if the next Dean ate and slept a little more of the administrative side of things than I did. Now, mind you, I don't mean someone who will create a "managerial culture." That would be death. This is what I think of when I think of that.

3. I predict Wesley will continue to grow. It has a winning formula: a never-endingly, networking leader, an outstanding faculty, expanding degrees and venues, and an ingenious admissions director.

A couple weeks ago, after a meeting, I had a two minute side conversation with Jeff Boyce of the Devoe School of Business. The next thing you know, we may be launching a specialization for the MA in something like executive management.

So we met with Jeff last Tuesday. During the meeting, Joanne Solis-Walker texted me asking what we would need to do to offer our MPTh in Spanish. Nothing really, just translate that part of the catalog. A nod from Wayne. A walk down to Aaron's office. That's another wrap.

"I love this place," Aaron said.

4. Wesley serves the primary needs of the church. It primarily serves those who would not normally go to seminary. It serves them by giving them the tools to do the work of the ministry. When the Seminary started, we figured that 85% of Wesleyan ministers didn't go to seminary.

I assume that has already changed noticeably, because more and more Wesleyan ministers are coming to Wesley. We have the whole spectrum of students, ranging from those who could have gone to the most academic seminaries out there, to those who have little prior training. I've long felt that there is a disconnect among churches who require seminary. Sometimes they think that they are the majority of pastors.

They aren't. The vast majority of pastors in America never go to seminary. I believe they should be the primary target audience of Wesley.

5. So what will be on that plaque in four years, the plaque capturing what the second five years of the Seminary was known for? Since we are in a strategic planning phase, I think I can hazard some guesses. Remember those signature items the Seminary Board defined back at the very beginning? They are well underway.

We already have four course specializations in Church Planting and Multiplication and Church Health and Revitalization. Just maybe the Seminary will have one relating to Ethnic and Multi-Cultural Ministry within the next couple years.

That leaves two more signature areas. Again, both are well underway. We are already in the process of partnering with three teaching churches. No doubt more will come. And we are already engaged in global ministerial training. No doubt more will come.

6. I can also now announce that Patrick Eby will be joining the faculty July 1 this year. His specialty is in church history, Charles Wesley in particular. Wesley will become a partner with the Manchester Wesley Studies Center in England July 1 as well. With Bob Whitesel, Colleen Derr, and Patrick all experts in various aspects of applied Wesley Studies, there may be something on that plague in this area as well. Who knows?

What an amazing thing to have been a part of, six years a Dean!

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

Pre-Seminary
1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)
21. Growth means addition. (3)

Year 5: The Year of Accreditation
22. Don't underestimate the power of a symbol.
23. A good reputation is much to be desired.
24. Sustainability needs reliable infrastructure.
25. Important decisions often involve trade-offs.

Year 6: Launching the Future
26. Good leaders look for opportunities.
27. Online programs tend to cannibalize equivalent onsite ones.
28. You can be practical on the doctoral level.
29. What's in a Dean?

Related Posts
The Next Phase of Schenck
Top Ten Leadership Lessons I've Learned

Monday, March 16, 2015

29. What's in a Dean?

1. One aspect of Year 6 was when the then Dean, Ken Schenck, decided to apply for a New Testament position back in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). He was not looking to change positions. But he was doing some soul searching at the time. He was wondering what he should be aiming for, as he looked ahead.

What were the options, looking ahead? At some point I could join the Seminary faculty. I had more or less assumed that would happen eventually. And of course I consider Wayne Schmidt one of the leading options for General Superintendent. Was I interested in leading the Seminary, if he were promoted to glory? Would they even choose me to run the Seminary if I were interested?

As far as joining the Seminary faculty, I didn't feel like it was time. Remaining Dean excited me more. Most of the Bible in the Seminary is introductory in nature. Being Dean is more stimulating.

Was I thriving as a Dean? No doubt I was good at some things, adequate at others. In the Fall we had wrestled with a number of questions. We wrestled with the question of onsite. We were still wrestling with the formula for the Integration Paper. We wrestled some with the question of who our typical student is or should be. We wrestled with how exacting we should be with things like deadlines and grades. We wrestled with the MA in Leadership curriculum.

After all these debates, I felt like I was becoming too negative. I was becoming too much of an Eeyore instead of a Tigger.

But Eeyores don't make good leaders. I actually asked Keith Drury to meet me at Starbucks one week in mid-November to try to reset my mind. I resolved to start acting with the gravitas of someone who leads a Seminary, to start behaving with the kind of gravity and class Wayne has.

2. My final choice to apply for the New Testament position back in the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) is only partially the story of the Seminary, so I won't share much. At one lunch, someone jokingly asked me if I was interested in the job. I think I said something like, "If you'd have asked me Wednesday, I'd have said yes. Today, I'm okay."

Before I left for the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in late November, I told Wayne that I was praying and reflecting on whether to apply for the STM position. Returning to teaching New Testament with undergraduates was one of the possible options on my earlier list, just not one I thought was ever likely to happen. There are things you do well at with ease. There are things you do well at with effort. There are things you do okay at but you know others might do better.

Teaching 18-22 year olds philosophy and the Bible is something that, at least in the past, seemed to be second nature to me. I think I was at least entertaining as a professor (which of course doesn't necessarily mean that learning took place). If you gave me an impromptu topic in these areas to teach in five minutes, I could probably do better than average, and a good time would be had by many.

Being Dean is much more important, much more significant, and much more thankless. Most of the time, you don't get to do your own dreaming. Your job is to facilitate the dreams of others. In some cases, it is the job of gluing people together who are running full speed in different directions. Sometimes it's the job of policeman, and we all know that people enjoy being redirected or told no. It is a noble task, and I feel good about the job I have done.

I wasn't looking for a change. But the possibility of doing something in my sweet spot for a while just seemed too good to pass up after six years a Dean.

3. When I went to the new Deans seminar at ATS in 2013, Dan Aleshire said that, "The job of a seminary President is to make sure that a seminary has students who are coming. The job of a seminary Dean is to make sure there is something worth coming to."

That is the prevailing model of an academic Dean, to guarantee the academic quality of the institution. I believe I have fulfilled my duty in that regard. I have facilitated assessment. I have made sure the most basic academic rules have been kept. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.

For those who think of the Dean in these traditional categories, I have only been an average Dean (aside from getting us accredited in five years, I suppose ;-). Frankly, the faculty have done a much better job at ensuring traditional academic quality than I have.

I view policies as guidelines, not laws. I consider academic quality a cultural idea that is a moving target that the market sets. And I believe we should be an open door seminary that wants to improve the serve of as many ministers as possible, whether they are academically brilliant or academic strugglers. There are several really inspiring ministers I can think of who were academic duds, and there are some academically gifted ministerial students I had, who are just doing ok in ministry.

4. I believe the most important roles I have played as Dean are threefold. I have been chief academic problem solver in executing new academic ventures. I have served as the glue holding all the players together. And I have served as the academic guardian of the initial dream.

A new Dean doesn't have to play these roles. He or she can be the traditional paper pusher. But then Wesley needs others to pick up these more crucial roles. Anyone who thinks we are done designing new things wasn't in the office last week. Not to keep moving forward is to move backward.

But I'm not too worried. Wayne cannot not make new connections. Aaron Wilkinson, admissions director, has caught the bug and he knows the method. There are faculty who will sit in a room with a white board and scheme. And, of course, there's nothing I want to do more than something I don't have to do... I remain open to post-lunch white boarding.

I think others will pick up the glue piece. I think the Seminary team may be moving toward an environment where it is okay to voice strong opinions, to disagree, and yet to go to lunch after the vote or decision. There is a structure. There are things the administration has the authority to do. There are votes the faculty have on issues. The administrate will feel freer to collaborate if it knows its final decisions will be accepted after discussion. And the faculty can disagree more freely if everyone submits to the final vote.

As for the founding vision, it is always subject to change. It has already evolved, as you would expect it to. I suspect Wayne and the Seminary Board will probably keep the current vision for the Seminary for the time being. And keeping it will still fall to the Dean academically.

But I also think the faculty have owned that vision. They have made it their own. And so I don't think there is a problem here. The faculty will only make it better.

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

Pre-Seminary
1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)
21. Growth means addition. (3)

Year 5: The Year of Accreditation
22. Don't underestimate the power of a symbol.
23. A good reputation is much to be desired.
24. Sustainability needs reliable infrastructure.
25. Important decisions often involve trade-offs.

Year 6: Launching the Future
26. Good leaders look for opportunities.
27. Online programs tend to cannibalize equivalent onsite ones.
28. You can be practical on the doctoral level.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Canterbury Trail

1. There was some interesting chatter earlier in the week in response to a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this month about two Baptist youths who grew up, one to become an Anglican bishop, the other a Catholic priest. Al Mohler thinks it's a failing of Baptist churches to adequately ground their young people theologically in the Christian faith.

Both Scot McKnight and Mike Bird aren't buying it. McKnight in particular points to the "soul liberty" principle of Baptists, which emphasizes freedom to act and believe according to one's own conscience. Obviously the SBC hasn't been emphasizing that principle much for the last 25 years.

This Canterbury pattern is nothing new, however. Indeed, it was quite common in the late 1800s. Every once and a while it comes back on our radar screen, that's all. I have seen it happen with some students these last 15 years even at IWU. I've even seen it happen with professors.

2. I think a lot of it has to do with the sense of weightiness and stability that the Anglican and Catholic traditions bring. It is very attractive to a certain contemplative personality.

And, whether we admit it or not, the interpretation of the Bible varies wildly among Christians. This group says this; that group says that. Al Mohler can get out his guns to make sure no Baptists deviate from what he says the Bible means. But he doesn't have enough soldiers to police all of Christendom. He doesn't have enough guns even to police the Southern Baptists. This is the Protestant Principle of Paul Tillich, emphatically demonstrated by history. Forms of Christianity that try to orient themselves exclusively around the Bible inevitably result in an endlessly diversifying collection of individual groups with different beliefs.

Against this backdrop, the Anglican and Catholic traditions seem to have much more depth. Rather than believing that the Church was wrong for about 1500 years before Luther finally got it right again, these traditions argue that the true Church has basically believed the same things for 2000 years.

3. For all that, I remain a Protestant. I respect the Roman Catholic Church. I could be an Anglican, no doubt would be if I lived in England. What is hard for me is not the rituals of these traditions but the claim that these rituals are the only correct rituals, the ones everyone should be doing.

I don't know if there is a name for what I am. I respect the common traditions of Christianity and I respect the original practices of the earliest church while 1) recognizing that they are not exactly the same and 2) concluding that neither in itself is timeless.

Did the earliest church baptize infants? I bet they did. Do we have to? No.

Did the earliest church have communion as a distinct and separate ceremony preceded over by an ordained minister? Not at all. Can we? Yes.

So I wag my heads at both groups. I wag my head at the arrogant primitivists who say, "We call our church leaders what they called them in the NT church." So what? Are you an ancient Jew? (really, this position is even more traditionalist than the other)

And I wag my head at the condescending crowd that thinks they are now superior because they've become Episcopal. Do you know how many stupid things the church fathers said and how bad they typically were as interpreters of the NT in context?

So there's nothing wrong with being Anglican and there's nothing wrong with going primitive... as long as you know that God is interested in what's in your heart, not in whether you meet in a house like the earliest Christians or whether your priest genuflects when he's consecrating the elements.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

28. You can be practical on the doctoral level.

1. I have mentioned Luigi Peñaranda and Brannon Hancock occasionally throughout this narrative. Let me now officially introduce them as faculty who joined the Seminary July 1, 2014.

Luigi was hired as our first full-time faculty member who would teach extensively, although by no means exclusively, for the Spanish MDIV program. He has been a Godsend because this program has lacked full-time faculty eyes. His doctoral work is in leadership but he has master's training in biblical studies.

Indeed, with him and Brannon now here, we can finally speak of something like a "foundations team." Before they came, it was John Drury and me half time. But it is awkward for the Dean to be involved in faculty decisions because of the intrinsic power differential. John astutely observed in a recent meaning that I sometimes do not give my opinion as a Bible person in meetings because as Dean I am supposed to more or less let the faculty make academic decisions.

One of the things I appreciate about Luigi--and this is an area administration has to be careful about--is that he serves above and beyond the call of duty.

This reminds me of some advice I would give the many out there who are currently looking for a faculty position. If you are wanting to become a faculty member somewhere, consider the following common sense dynamic if you go to interview. It is true that there are certain things a university probably cannot require you to do without giving you something extra in return (money, load release, etc).

But consider this. If a university has a hiring choice between two people, one of whom is wired to serve beyond what he or she is required to do and the other of whom only does what s/he is required to do, who would you hire? In 1996 when I was looking for a teaching job, a Provost at an unnamed seminary glibly told me that it was a "buyer's market" for professors.

I won't say it glibly, but it is MUCH worse now almost twenty years later. Those of us who teach are all fortunate to have a job, and beggars are choosers at their own risk of unemployment. verbum sapienti satis est.

Integration is Brannon's middle name. He is a worship guy. He is a church history guy. He knows the arts and literature. It is truly enriching to have him on the faculty. People like he and John have the academic chops to teach at a traditional, academic type graduate school, but they have the application skills to train ministers in the tools of ministry.

2. Those of us in the Seminary have believed now for a long time that a Doctor of Ministry degree (DMIN) would be a logical development over time for a seminary focused on the practice of ministry.

A DMIN is quite different from a PhD in character. For example, a PhD is something like a pyramid. It starts with a wide and broad base of theoretical knowledge and then increasingly becomes more and more specific in focus until the dissertation argues something in a way that no one has ever done before. It is an academically oriented degree.

A DMIN is different. It is more like a pylon. You start specific and you end specific. You don't take a lot of background theoretical courses but are pretty much focused on a narrow area in the practice of ministry from beginning to end. It ends with a project that involves some sort of field research, for example, in relation to a specific local church or a particular ministry related problem. It is a practice oriented degree.

3. We did not want to start any specific dreaming about a DMIN until after we were fully accredited by ATS, which happened in the summer of 2014. But as soon as we knew the positive review of the visiting team, we immediately put a task force together. Bob Whitesel had extensive experience with teaching DMIN students. He has both a DMIN and a PhD from Fuller and has taught several times for them. He has also taught for Wheaton and has extensive connections with Talbot and George Fox.

Lenny Luchetti was also a logical person to give input to a potential DMIN program, being a distinguished graduate of Asbury's highly revered Beeson Program. Colleen Derr was a logical person eventually to lead a Spiritual Formation cohort one day. She brings extensive knowledge of Regent's degree programs.

4. We did research. What kinds of subjects would bring our alumni and Wesleyan pastors with an MDIV back for a DMIN? The results put Leadership first, then Proclamation, then Spiritual Formation. Perfecto.

Here again was a situation where I suddenly realized how differently I think than others. There are really different kinds of faculty. For example, there is one kind of faculty that will teach as many overloads as you give them at the drop of a hat. They either want the money or they love to teach. Then there is another kind of faculty person that wants the time. They want load release, not money.

Then there are some who think the more the merrier as far as class size. By contrast, there are others who want relatively small class sizes so that they can give more personal attention.

So, given my personality, I assumed everyone on faculty would want to teach for the DMIN. Not so. Some had no interest whatsoever.

Also, I immediately wanted to do something unique, something creative that no one had done before. But I'm afraid the complication of the existing MDIV didn't leave many open ears there. Most wanted to do something more normal for a change. To be honest, I didn't really know how DMINs were wired. I thought they were just PhDs in a practical area.

5. I feel really good about the model that developed as a proposal. I want to be clear here. While this has passed all the internal academic approvals, we have a site visit from ATS next month and we are still waiting to hear back from HLC. So, right now, this is only a proposal.

It is a "faculty mentor" model. The concept is that, about a year before a cohort start, the professor on deck would craft a cohort proposal, which involves three years' worth of intensive courses and online research courses. Then each student would spend a fourth year (or more) completing their project.

So let's say you wanted to study Leadership with Bob Whitesel. You might spend two weeks at 12Stone® with him in June 2016, then two weeks in England with him in June 2017, then two weeks in San Diego with him in June 2018. At each of these locations, there would be guest professors who would drop in to share leadership insights relevant to the subject of the intensive.

Meanwhile, each January you would work six weeks online working on your project proposal. No later than the second year of these, you would be assigned a Project Advisor who would help you through the proposal and on to a successful oral defense. Voila, you're Dr. So and So.

Pray for us as we walk through what we hope will be the final stages of this DMIN journey.

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

Pre-Seminary
1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)
21. Growth means addition. (3)

Year 5: The Year of Accreditation
22. Don't underestimate the power of a symbol.
23. A good reputation is much to be desired.
24. Sustainability needs reliable infrastructure.
25. Important decisions often involve trade-offs.

Year 6: Launching the Future
26. Good leaders look for opportunities.
27. Online programs tend to cannibalize equivalent onsite ones.

Friday, March 13, 2015

27. Online programs tend to cannibalize equivalent onsite ones.

1. A few days before the Fall semester this year began (August 2014), I came to a shocking realization. Although our total new student enrollment for the Fall MDIV was perfectly fine, only two of them wanted to come onsite here in Marion!

Our on-campus numbers had been trending low, but this was a shocker, a game changer. What should we do:
  • force these two to go online? 
  • roll them into one of the existing onsite cohorts meeting on a different day than they had planned?
  • have a class of two and pro rate the pay for the professors?
  • have them do it as an independent study?
  • something else?
(As a side note, Karen Clark had figured out about Year 5 that we needed an average of 12 students per class to break even, given the "tax" called "central administration" that we have to pay to the broader university. But we only pro-rate pay below 8 students--one eighth less for each student less than 8.)

2. In typical Schenck style, I sent out a ponderous email to the faculty, brainstorming what to do. My creativity began to go into action.

The class those two students were scheduled to take on Wednesdays was Missional Church. Bob Whitesel was the praxis professor, and I was scheduled to do the foundations. I quickly conferred with Bob and necessity was the mother of invention.

a. The scheduled spiritual formation professor preferred not to teach two students on a pro-rated overload, so I took that over Wednesday mornings at 9am with the two students.

b. There were two very full sections of online Missional Church with Charles Arn. Our problem again was not the number of students but their distribution.

I sent out an emergency email to those two cohorts. Would any of them like to participate in an experiment, what Bob came to call a "cyber-synchronous" class? If I could recruit 6 students from Chip's classes, we could have a live class on Wednesday mornings consisting of the two onsite students and 6 students who would meet live by way of Adobe Connect.

c. We got the six! So from 9-10am on Wednesdays, I met face-to-face with the two onsite students in spiritual formation. Then from 10-12:30, either Bob or I met with all 8 students. Joe and Matt were in the interactive classroom. Mark, Mia, Jack, Erica, Josh, and Guillermo were projected up on the screen. Then there was an online discussion the rest of the week.

Bob was convinced that this was the way of the future. (As a sidenote, I had been telling him for some time that the bandwidth was such that we should seriously begin to rethink incorporating live time at least as an option into our teaching.) The synchronous online students absolutely loved it. (Not sure whether it was quite as much fun for Matt and Joe.)

There was no promise that this group would do their whole program this way. There was always the chance that, come January, the 6 online would have to return to the ether, and the two onsite would have to combine with the Thursday onsite cohort.

3. It was then that I learned Sharon's rule, an insight that Sharon Drury had when doing a study of the CCCU schools that had both onsite and online courses: "If the same course exists at an institution in both online and onsite form, eventually it will only be offered online."

What this means is that, even though almost everyone says that they prefer face-to-face classes, the pragmatics of life are such that inevitably everyone chooses the online option. The only way around this dynamic that I can see is that there has to be some counter-incentive, some advantage about the onsite that the online doesn't have.

The rest of IWU has put rules in place to keep this from happening between CAS and CAPS. CAPS does not recruit students under 22 years old. CAS students can only take CAPS classes in the summer toward their requirements. I personally don't see this arrangement as a likely long term one, but it has held the waters in place so far.

4. In keeping with my usual mode of operation, I assumed that this was a problem we wanted to fix. I assumed that the faculty wanted to have students onsite. I thought it was important to have onsite cohorts. The problem in my mind was figuring out how to get the students to come to them. I viewed this as an emergency to fix, not as a time for philosophical reflection.

But I was genuinely surprised that find that, by this time, many of the faculty had serious questions about us even having an onsite option in Marion. To give a little background, it had long been a matter of discussion and frustration that we did not seem to have a strategy to recruit students to join our Marion onsite cohorts.

When the Seminary was founded, Russ, Keith, and I assumed that at least some students would move to Marion to go to the Seminary. I had anticipated partnering with churches in the area to place such students so they could move to Indiana and do our "in ministry" degree. We thought there would be a residential as well as an online option.

But Russ and I created the onsite classes to meet one day a week so that students could drive in from Indy, Ft. Wayne, or Kokomo. (Indeed, the first semester Paul Roemer commuted from Michigan every Tuesday.) This had an unintended consequence. Even if someone were to move to Indiana for the program, it made more sense for them to move to a church in the area than to come to Marion itself. And the residential campus didn't really have any graduate housing.

I only remembering talking seriously to one prospective student about moving to the area with his family. I connected him to Aron Willis, the District Superintendent of the Indiana North District. But even that didn't work out.

At one point in an earlier year, several faculty were quite vocal about the need to try to recruit the graduating students from the other side of the campus. They were willing to go to the Wesleyan and related colleges to try to recruit students just graduating. But there was another perspective in the mix as well, one that thought of Wesley as principally interested in adult students. Students just out of college were welcome. But they weren't the primary target.

5. From my perspective, an onsite option was significant for several reasons. The main one in my mind had to do with faculty satisfaction. There are some professors who would rather teach online than onsite, but I'm pretty sure they are the exception. My sense is that most faculty types in the academic world--especially the ministerial world--still prefer teaching face-to-face in live time.

Almost all the professors of the future will have to teach online and from a distance. But for the moment, I think most still prefer face-to-face, live teaching, at least if it's a good onsite situation. We are fine with online, but we went into teaching more for the face-to-face.

I'm sure it's possible to recruit an entire faculty who do not need or care about face-to-face interaction. Maybe that's just where it has to go right now. But I still think, on average, it will be easier to recruit and retain the best ministry professors if there is at least the possibility of some face-to-face teaching.

6. So I was really shocked at the ensuing discussion. I assumed we all wanted to save the onsite in Marion. But it became clear that some had become frustrated. Some didn't want to teach onsite if it was going to be the anemic situation it had been in the last year. Some who had earlier argued for a strategy now indicated that they had long since given up any hope. And very few had any interest in the "cyber-synchronous" option Bob and I were trying.

Another suggested that it didn't matter what made faculty happy. It was what the students were interested in that was important, and they didn't seem to be interested in Marion onsite. One suggested that the Spirit might be behind the trend.

Robert's Rules doesn't have a "call to pray and fast for a month" motion. But it takes precedence over all other motions, including calling the previous question. So all discussion stopped, and we met together in silence and prayed once a week for a month. It was a good thing. It was good for us all. It was good for our souls.

Afterwards, there were brainstorms for other options. There was a strong sense that while the onsite cohort in Marion might have a shelf-life, there were other possibilities. For example, we will likely be launching another evening, MA in Ministry cohort in Indy on Monday nights, starting in October.

Sign up! This will be something we have never done before and students from Heartland church will be part of the mix. This cohort will have the core MA courses, but about half the courses will be Wesley professors marketing and teaching special courses of interest to them. Pastors and lay people in Indy should look at the list of options and drop into any individual courses that interest them!

There are other possibilities. For example, if the UM church were to approve us, we could offer face-to-face ordination courses for the Indiana Conference at IWU's regional sites all around the State of Indiana. How about it GBHEM? If you include the two UM faculty from the undergraduate school with the Seminary faculty, then we ironically may have a higher percentage of UM faculty than most official UM seminaries do!

7. Of course I have reflections and retrospectives of my own. I had never questioned the specifics of the cohort model we had used since 2004. The assumption was that, onsite as online, you tried your best to recruit as many cohorts as often as you could in as many locations as you could.

The onsite crisis of 2015 led me to see this method as a little like trying to plant soybean in the same field every year. Eventually, the land becomes spent and you won't be able to plant anything there for a while. This is why farmers in Indiana rotate crops. They don't plant corn every year in the same field but they'll alternate it with soybean or let a section lie fallow.

The Grad Ministry program had tried to plant soybean every year as often as possible in as many locations as possible. And we watched every onsite venue become infertile soil. First the MA in Marion dried up, then Fort Wayne, finally Indianapolis.

Our time of reflection left me wondering why on earth we used this strategy, other than the pressure on admissions people to do so over and over again. Surely it made more sense to "loop" onsite cohorts, like a train that goes round and round on a circuit. On a two year MA loop, you only need to add on average three a semester for the cohort to be healthy. On a three year MDIV loop, you would only need to add on average two a semester.

Every time the train is going to pass the first station again, you do a new marketing push. Since we are talking onsite, there is no problem having twenty or thirty students in the group. (Class size is another debate point. Some faculty don't care how big they get; others are quite particular.)

So I have found myself wondering why I ever scheduled three days of Marion cohorts and why we tried to recruit a new one every year. (Actually I dreamed of doing one every "semester." Also, technically, we are not on semesters, but that's another story.)

So the plan is now to have one onsite Marion cohort for the time being. New students will simply board the Thursday train whichever semester they come and get off when they have made the cycle around the whole track. All we need do is add at least two students a semester, which is exactly how many new students we had this past Fall when we thought we had a crisis.

So if God wants to shut down the Marion onsite option down, he can. But if there is free will too, perhaps it could now go on indefinitely. :-)

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

Pre-Seminary
1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)
20. Growth means addition. (2)
21. Growth means addition. (3)

Year 5: The Year of Accreditation
22. Don't underestimate the power of a symbol.
23. A good reputation is much to be desired.
24. Sustainability needs reliable infrastructure.
25. Important decisions often involve trade-offs.

Year 6: Launching the Future
26. Good leaders look for opportunities.

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