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Enhancing Student Learning and Development in Cross-Border Higher Education (New Directions for Higher Education, Number 175)
Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
This volume is dedicated to cross-border education, a type of internationalization focused on education strategies that move across national and regional lines. Editors Roberts and Komives cite J. Knight’s description of internationalization as “the process of integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions, or delivery of postsecondary education” (10). Internationalization, at first blush, may appear but a mere euphemism for globalization, a rather deleterious concept especially when partnered with education. Roberts and Komives, however, are quick to point out how internationalization differs from globalization in both purpose and process. Globalization promotes rampant product production, increased uniformity, the ubiquity of certain products and hegemonic narratives, and is often associated with the pernicious effects of the exploitation of vulnerable populations around the world. In contrast, “internationalization is a process of infusing international ideas across a variety of functions and experiences” in which “distinct attributes of identity are accorded value” (10). Internationalization, according to Roberts, “embraces the inevitable – a shrinking planet with growing shared reliance on each other” but also seeks to preserve culture (10). Cross-border education (CBE) goes beyond the traditional study abroad mindset; it requires “infusing international, cultural, or comparative perspectives in existing courses,” “modifying teaching and learning processes through virtual experiences,” and incorporating scholarship from other cultural settings to bring the world “home” to students within their own schools (16). It also encourages fluidity of people, programs, projects, and policies across national and regional lines and places a high premium on critical analysis of the cross-cultural application of educational practices.
Section one addresses how to systematically study educational practices and evaluate their transferability to a different context. Darbi Roberts’ contribution requires readers to address how and why educational systems choose from which programs to borrow. Section two illustrates examples of student learning and development programs around the world (South Africa, China, UK, Mexico, and more) created to address specific populations and needs within their own cultural and national boundaries but which may prove incredibly useful for others throughout the world. Previously, much research on student learning and development originated in the United States, but this volume highlights the growing programs in other parts of the globe. McGlory Speckman writes about first-year village programs in South Africa, where this program was developed, and the need of many students from backgrounds of “economic, social, and political deprivation” for a communal and supportive environment as they transition to a university setting (34). Wong’s chapter is a fascinating foray into a unique population in China, students born under China’s 1979 One Child Policy, whose disruptive adjustment to university life requires universities to set up programs addressing this population’s lack of compromising skills and enhance their resiliency and self-reliance. These programs include everything from complicated team work, physical training, and mentorship to a simulation activity called the “city challenge” in which “students are given very limited pocket money and they have to earn their food by selling products they invent” (45). Chapter 5 focuses on a specific program at the University of Sheffield, UK, dedicated to “looked-after children” and “care leavers” (49). Encouraging this population towards higher education is a real challenge, as “only around 6% of English care leavers enter higher education at the age of 19, compared to 48% of a similar age in the general population” (53). Mexico’s legacy of political corruption, financial disparity between rich and poor, and a general lack of civically engaged citizens have created a challenging environment for local universities trying to educate their students to become leaders, according to Alicia Canton’s chapter. The Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) has invested in numerous initiatives to encourage students to become involved in their communities such as implementing active pedagogies “connecting the student to current problems within the local community,” requiring every student to complete an internship at a local organization, offering cocurricular courses to develop leadership competencies, and mandating “every student perform 480 hours of service” (59-60).
Section III moves readers back into the realm of theory, providing analytical tools for exploring data produced in specific student learning and development environments like those described in Section II. This section exemplifies how those designing initiatives to enhance student learning and development, especially in the arena of cross-border education (CBE), must explore the significance of context as well as content. Readers are prompted to explore prevalent cultural assumptions, national agendas, and various socio-political discourses which have informed and shaped their own definitions of learning and development, as well as those of the programs they wish to adopt or adapt. Broido and Schreiber’s chapter presents social justice frameworks for student learning and development as well as concise renderings of various pertinent dimensions of student development theories (identity development, cognitive-structural development, and self-authorship theories). Drawing on the work of Hofer and Weinstock, Broido and Schreiber note how “patterns of epistological development vary among cultures” and how cultural assumptions about knowledge, truth, and authority, can profoundly affect how students learn and develop (70). The general values of a culture “as well as the role of the family, religion, and social identity enhances a critical perspective on designing appropriate strategies for student learning and development” (75). Chapter 8 applies an ecological systems view to Singapore, a culture that highly values formal education, an attribute likely stemming from a belief among families that education is a passport out of poverty. Deference to elders and authority, possibly arising from a Confucian root in the culture, are attributes which lead to a particular learning environment, not unique to Singapore but definitely significant when considering program adoption across borders. Chen’s and Mathies’ contribution looks at increased interest in assessment and evaluation in the halls of higher education, in the U.S. and around the world, over the last few decades. The fact that college admission in many Asian cultures is controlled by the government via a national entrance exam, exemplifies just another way in which U.S., European, and Asian institutions approach education differently (89). Formerly faculty and now on staff as an academic advisor, I fully concur with the authors of chapter 10 that “in a cross-border educational paradigm, it is increasingly important for faculty and staff to orient their work and self-understanding of their roles to be that of educators” (93). The need for internationally competent staff will only become more critical in the future.
Roberts and Komives close their volume with a look at how partnerships can enhance student learning and development by taking into consideration institutional motivations for transferring, adapting, hedging, or even avoiding certain programs or policies. Some aspects of student learning and development programs (such as career decision making, counseling, intercollegiate sports, student governance, fraternities and sororities, coed housing, and so forth) may work well in the “home” country but prove disastrous when transplanted into another environment. This volume will prove illuminating to any student affairs professional, academic advisor, study abroad or exchange coordinator, faculty, or administer within higher education today but it is especially germane to those directly or even tangentially involved with policy adoption across borders.
Well-Being and Higher Education: A Strategy for Change and the Realization of Education's Greater Purposes
Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
“Well-being” is a complicated construct with at least two referents: the hedonic tradition considering well-being as feelings, and the eudaimonic tradition which sees well-being as a relational activity, the practice of being well, or living life well. This volume explores the various implications and connections existing between well-being (by either definition) and higher education (5). In so doing, the contributions in this volume argue that higher education must change its focus to give “priority to and support for those experiences that make learning and well-being connected objectives” (11). In other words, the authors of this volume suggest that well-being is at the core of higher education, and therefore, institutions of higher learning ought to prioritize experiences that contribute to a student’s well-being.
For those involved in higher education, the context for this volume is readily apparent. The landscape of education, as Laurie Schreiner describes it, is a perfect storm wherein,
The most diverse group of students enters higher education from schools that have ill-prepared them for college at the same time that postsecondary institutions have shifted their focus to credentialism and financial sustainability. The promise of higher education, to empower students and broaden their capacity to engage the world as global citizens and whole persons, has narrowed to the point that is now perceived as simply a steppingstone to a better job. (136)
It is within this context, and against this background that the present volume should be read. Well-being is not a silver bullet, and a focus on well-being in education will not solve all of these problems. But, as the diverse contributions in this volume illustrate, a focus on well-being either at the level of the individual instructor, in programmatic directions, or as an essential direction of whole institutions, goes a long way towards revitalizing the significance of higher education and towards ensuring that students benefit from the time they spend in college.
The book is made up of thirty-four essays, which are organized into four parts. The first section is entitled “Analysis and Meaning” and deals with the task of defining well-being and describing it fully, with particular attention to the way in which the concept relates to higher education. The essays in this section are highly critical of the job skills or certification centered model of education and often shift into a defense of the liberal arts. By and large, their point is clear – college education has larger impacts on a student’s life than appear in the classroom, or on assessments of various types. These impacts include the practical factors of a student’s physical and psychological well-being both while they are in school and after graduation. There are also more abstract implications including the development of virtue, community, and citizenship. At the heart of all of these essays are the larger questions about the essential mission of higher education, and the equally difficult question of identifying the defining characteristics of educated students.
The second section, “Manifestations and Implementation,” treats various issues brought about by re-focusing higher education onto the development of well-being. Key concepts articulated in this section are those of flourishing, self-authorship, and identity development, and there is also a sustained argument across several essays for the institutional re-definition of student success along with the concomitant implications for assessing success in a well-being paradigm.
The third section, “Facilitation: Curricular, Pedagogic and Across Boundaries,” takes on some programmatic consequences of the preceding discussions of well-being. These essays take pre-existing institutional initiatives as something of a case study exploring larger questions of what shape institutions or initiatives focused on well-being would take. Well-being initiatives at Georgetown, George Mason, and Morehouse are analyzed, as are implications of campus carry legislation, and the impact of national goals related to degree completion on community college students and their well-being.
The final section, “The Logic of Change: Why, What, and How?” postulates several different theoretical treatments of why institutions of higher education should take on the hard work of change and should reorganize their efforts and re-center their initiatives around well-being. Comparisons are drawn between institutional change in health care and that in higher education. Authors articulate the social/historical context that makes the time ripe for the reinvention of higher education. Also, the benefit of problem-based capstone courses, and particularly the reorganization of curriculum around such courses, are identified.
Well-being is a tremendously important concept for the future of higher education, and this volume presents a variety of approaches to the application of well-being onto various aspects of the higher educational institution. Instructors can use this volume to consider ways of adapting their teaching towards the beneficial education of the whole student. Administrators would benefit from thinking through the implications that curriculum and institutional structures and approaches have on student well-being (and that of university staff and faculty). The individual essays are organized well and present cogent arguments. This volume is a great resource for anyone interested in the development of well-being in higher education.
Most theological school deans enter the office from an academic field of study---religious, theological, or ministry--distant from the field in which they now hold responsibilities: academic administration. Scholarly research soon takes a back seat to less esoteric and more pragmatic research. Spreadsheets, reports, budgets, and schedules become the daily tools ...
Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education
Date Reviewed: June 23, 2017
Former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jerome Murphy writes as a seasoned educator about how to best care for yourself as a teacher in the midst of daily stress. This book applies to the stress of academia as well as ministry. It is a book I would recommend to students preparing to teach and to serve in ministerial vocations. Murphy highlights the source of stress that afflicts educators: our own responses to stress. When difficult situations arise, we tend to respond in one of three self-defeating ways: ruminating on the negative, rebuking ourselves, or resisting our emotions. Murphy draws from the literature on mindfulness to point out the health benefits of becoming aware of our emotions in the moment and accepting our shortcomings.
As an alternative to the cycles of rumination, rebuke, and resistance, Murphy offers a list of instructions that help educators focus on their own values, summarized by the acronym “MY DANCE.” Each letter represents a phrase discussed in the following chapters. “Minding your values” advocates understanding our own life goals and naming our best version of ourselves. Knowing who we want to be helps us evaluate whether our actions are in line with our values. The next chapter, “Yield to now,” captures the importance of in-the-moment mindfulness, trying to stay present to ourselves and others, and includes exercises for practicing mindfulness. “Disentangle from upsets” also highlights the role of mindfulness in preventing us from being consumed by our stress. The chapter titled “Allow unease” instructs readers to attend to the discomfort of negative feelings. “Nourish yourself” emphasizes intentional self-care and practices of gratitude, while “Cherish self-compassion” takes self-care to a deeper level. The last element of the acronym is “Express Feelings Wisely.”
In each of these chapters, Murphy brings in personal anecdotes from years of administration and leading workshops for teachers and school principals. He intersperses these lessons with some of his own personal struggles, such as his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease. In these glimpses of personal sharing, the reader gets a sense of how these practices of self-care have been imperative for someone who has transitioned from being a dean of a Harvard graduate school to a full-time caregiver for his wife of nearly fifty years as she slowly loses her ability to recognize him.
This book draws our attention to the humanity of all educators: we are not simply vessels of information or mediums of higher learning. Each person has his or her own struggles in living daily life, on top of the demands of our teaching vocations. Attending lovingly to our limitations and caring for ourselves in the midst of these struggles is crucial if we are to be effective as teachers and healthy individuals. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to better care for themselves in the midst of life’s demands.
One of the most critical skills theological school deans need, arguably now more than ever before, is that of problem-solving. The challenges facing theological schools continue to become more technologically complex, socially entangled, costly, and multi-faceted. It is evident that most deans are not just dealing with programmatic, administrative, and ...