Student Involvement= Needed in Planning for the Future!

12 Apr

After being invited in by David Hodgson of the International Futures Forum, last Friday I attended a very thought-provoking workshop titled “Redesigning the Higher Education Plane Whilst Flying It.” The workshop took place as part of the Western Association for Schools and College’s Academic Resource Conference. WASC is basically the major accrediting body for both private and public schools in the western part of the United States. If you go to school in this area, you are probably familiar with the hustle and bustle (basically general anxiety over being “legit”) that occurs with faculty and administration in preparation for the “WASC” visit every few years. However, this workshop was organized by the IFF to be held more informally within the conference. The email invite I received said “We hope those of you who attend will play with us to identify and generate some creative ideas and bold visions for the shared future of higher education.” So of course I was very excited to be included!

After arriving at the conference venue and taking a look around, I noticed I was by far the youngest person that I could see, and I wasn’t even officially attending the actual conference! The WASC conference is focused on transforming higher education, yet the very group of people the organization is ultimately addressing and serving are not even involved in the important planning or feedback process! I am immensely thankful to David and IFF for inviting me in as a student participant. Despite this unfortunate missing piece, other facets of the conference looked like they were forward-thinking. I wandered a bit through the rooms where brainstorming boards had been set up with post-it notes on the needed changes within higher ed. I was happy to see things like “new digital literacy requirements” and “increased focus on multiple intelligences.” Woo!

In the IFF workshop, many educators and social entrepreneurs brought up critical points in considering something people are calling the “third horizon” of higher ed. Our current practices in higher education (developed in the past) fall into categories of first horizons and second horizons (the latter being a bit more progressive), yet we are on the cusp of third horizon, one that is a lot more radical and revolutionary than the first two. It was interesting to hear educators and university officials discussing the very same feelings and realizations relating to changes needed that my peers and I are experiencing and sensing. Sitting in this meeting, the sense of urgency and magnitude of the situation we are in to transform our processes of learning in our country was very much present.

I was a little apprehensive to add my voice to the conversation, as that irritating voice in the back of my head reminded me that I was only 19-years-old, what did I know? But, as I reminded myself, my voice (and my generation’s voice) is critical in this conversation, as we are the ones experiencing the challenges and flaws of the existing system, as well as the rapid changes in the real world today. When I did get the chance to speak, I brought up two points that had come to mind while listening to the other insightful comments:

  • The importance for colleges and universities (not to mention schools in general) to further embrace and even celebrate self-directed learning by students. I feel as if there are too many barriers within the current system (mostly having to do with accreditation, tenure, credit requirements, and financial limits) that tend to prevent what students are in school to do: to learn what we are passionate about and what we feel is needed for our life path and the future of our world.
  • After hearing one participant and professor speak on the need to focus more on educating students on “being” rather than simply “doing,” the conversation shifted to the importance of educating students as whole human beings rather than just as workers for society. I mentioned that schools should place more emphasis on instilling values and life guidance to students, so they feel more purposeful and find their studies to have deeper meaning than simply to receive a degree. Without this support, students are led to feel a sense of dread when it comes to their work. If students are provided guidance and focus to discover why they are learning rather than just what they are learning, I believe we may begin to appreciate our classes more and truly feel that our education has been inspiring and worth the time, effort –and especially nowadays— the cost.

4 Responses to “Student Involvement= Needed in Planning for the Future!”

  1. Satchel (Weezie's brother) April 20, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Wow Weezie! The conference sounds very interesting! I’m proud of you for the courage you had to speak and that you knew you should because of the place you are in as a student of the higher education process! Love you!

  2. Graham Leicester May 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    You may remember I ran the session. Thanks for coming Weezie, and for speaking up. It was great to have you there and your perspective was appreciated. I had not seen this blog post until now: but will pass it on to the conference organisers. I know WASC wants to encourage the student voice in the debate – so you should be pushing at an open door. Meantime, I hope we can stay in touch through IFF.



    • Weezie May 4, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      Good to hear from you Graham! That would be great if you did pass this piece along to the organizers, I would love to hear about their thoughts and possible current initiatives on increased student involvement and participation. I definitely want to remain in touch on IFF happenings as well! Thanks again for having me at the session 🙂

      • Graham Leicester August 4, 2011 at 6:56 am #

        Hello again Weezie. Sorry to have to contact you via this ancient thread. I just saw Anya Kamenetz’ ebook on DIY education and was pleased to see your venture called out as inspiration for others. Anya was (as you may recall) one of the speakers at the WASC event in the spring and caused quite a stir. I would like to pass her new ebook on to the WASC folks, point out the reference to yourself, and suggest they get in touch with you. Can I do that? Could you pass me your email for the purpose? Mine is graham(at)internationalfuturesforum(dot)com. It would be good to be in touch again in any event….

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