Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tranformational Education for Engaged Universities

"Transformational Education is the conceptual model that Wisconsin's Cooperative Extension Service (CES) uses to work with communities tackling complex issues in ways that transform these same communities in powerful and long-lasting ways," write Blewett, Keim, Leser & Jones in a recent article in the Journal of Extension.

They state, "educational programs that exhibit both high content transmission and a high level of process are the most effective in helping people and communities to solve problems or address issues." They argue that the major issues and problems of society require transformational education which they suggest includes:
  1. Engaging people who are interested in the issue, developing trust-based relationships and developing a group vision and plan for resolving a problem.
  2. Empowering people to develop knowledge and skills including "group leadership" to address an issue or problem.
  3. Creating feedback processes by using data and other monitoring methods to determine whether progress is being made in regards to putting knowledge and skills into action.
These ideas are similar to my own thinking in regards to engaged universities and my suggestions for how to create a global campus at the University of Illinois.

However, to create "transformational education" in 2008 and beyond we have to talk about how we are using the web, Web 2.0 tools (blogs, social networking, wikis, etc.) and linking this to laboratories, classrooms and outreach activities. This is the "transformative" aspect of an "engaged" university.

Here are the questions that we should be asking ourselves:

1. How do universities open their laboratories, experiments, data collection instruments, data, and data analysis tools to others (including the public)?

2. How do universities open their classrooms, lectures, discussions, forums, homework assignments, etc. to others (including the public)?

3. How do we create learning communities that span scientists, students, practicing professionals, and interested amateurs in solving problems and addressing issues?

Developing structures, tools and processes that address these questions will create the foundation for new educational opportunities that expand knowledge.

No comments: