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Preliminary report of the Collaborative Subcommittee November 9, 2004 Submitted by Novella Keith, Chair This is a working document. The Collaborative Subcommittee is an ad hoc subcommittee reporting to the College Steering Committee (CSC). The subcommittee was recommended at the Collegial Assembly on Oct. 13th, and formed at the CSC meeting on Oct. 18th. Novella Keith was appointed chair by the steering committee and asked to solicit membership from faculty and staff at the college and institutes. As the charge was unclear at the time, the chair was also asked to draft a charge for approval by the CSC, based on subcommittee discussions. It was understood that the work of the subcommittee would be ongoing, but that there was an immediate deadline of November 1 (later postponed to November 12) for preliminary recommendations to the dean, and that the chair would do all possible to provide preliminary input to the Dean by that deadline. The subcommittee has met three times. Participation at each meeting has varied somewhat. The following have contributed to subcommittee discussions, either by attending meetings or through individual contacts/conversations with the chair: Ivan Quandt (CITE), Larry Krafft (PSE/AOD), Frank Sullivan (CITE), Ken Thurman (CITE), Noreen Moskalski (Ambler), Mike Dorn (Urban Ed & Institute on Disabilities), Delores Randolph (Center for Human Development), Len Waks (ELPS), Diane Bryen (Institute on Disabilities), Joe Folger (PSE/AOD), Maureen Cannon (Institute on Disabilities). Others have not been able to attend but stated interest: Trish Jones, Cathy Shifter, Portia Hunt. Contributions made through Blackboard and e-mail by these and others have also been taken into consideration. Peshe Kuriloff has attended subcommittee meetings and met with the Chair separately, providing input and assistance as needed. The Chair also met with the Dean who has given assurances as to his availability as we work through our recommendations on the Collaborative. The Subcommittee’s next meeting is November 16. Since the Collaborative (and thus the task of the subcommittee) falls within the larger strategic planning document, it was decided to proceed in a bottom-up and top-down fashion. Discussions began by focusing on the collaborative. An examination of strategic planning documents followed. The document at hand is a meeting of the two. It seeks to clarify the scope of the Collaborative and thus the charge of the subcommittee by following the logic of the strategic plan and the issues that emerge from it. Activities to date: We have done the following (not necessarily in this order): 1. Close reading of the Dean’s strategic plan document (hereafter DSP); 2. Close reading of 2003-2004 Strategic Planning Committee documents (now on the Blackboard site) 3. Comparison of (1) and (2) so as to consider the current Strategic Plan in light of past history. 4. Review of issues raised by various individuals through the Blackboard discussion board and other means. 5. Discussion of issues raised by the Collaborative as currently proposed and in light of the above input. These discussions focused on the possibilities and concerns the Collaborative raises; how to maximize possibilities and address concerns. 6. Presented a draft document to the Steering Committee (special meeting of 11/8). The steering committee made some revisions and gave approval to the document, subject to said revisions. 7. Revised the document as per recommendations of the Steering Committee and the subcommittee meeting that followed (per input of members attending the 11/9 meeting). Future activities: 1. Meetings will be held at alternate times, in order to maximize input. 2. Each meeting will have a specific and to the extent possible, self-contained agenda, advertised to the College community (including faculty and Centers staff), so people can contribute in person or through e-mail on a one-time basis, if necessary. 3. An evolving document will be posted on Blackboard, in a way that is accessible to the whole community and not just faculty. 4. Faculty and staff will be urged to make their input on the issues under discussion. Within reason, input will be welcome on other parts of the document. However, deadlines for specific inputs will be posted, in order to ensure an effective and timely process. Recommendations 1. Mission of the college The College Steering Committee endorses the mission. It is recommended, however, that “metropolitan” rather than “urban” be used as a designation for the college and its mission. We recognize that core cities are connected with their immediate suburbs; that these “near” suburbs frequently share similar issues as inner cities; and that bridges need to be built between the two. The concept of metropolitan fits this emphasis. This designation could also be used whenever the document refers to “urban and suburban.” It is suggested that p. 1, paragraph 4 (“Our faculty”) precede paragraph 3 (“Our graduates”). 2. External challenges and opportunities The College Steering Committee endorses the statement of challenges and opportunities (vision). We view these as innovative and even exciting approaches to meeting the challenges that face the college, schools, and education professionals. We look forward to facilitation that allows for genuine cross fertilization of ideas, expertise, and experience, allowing faculty, staff, students, school professionals, and local communities to collaborate -- for instance, through the creation of cross disciplinary, cross institutional, and “border crossing” teams. We envision teams of students working in schools with the support of teams of education professionals and community members, at all levels, supported by research that is field responsive and inclusive. This vision has the potential to revitalize the college and make it a player in the national arena, with all the attendant rewards. At the same time that we are hopeful about this vision, we are also realistic about the challenges it entails. Transforming the college as envisioned will involve choices that will at times be difficult to make and will threaten to divide us. Our recommendation is based on the assumption that faculty will continue to be involved in the implementation of the mission and that any issues or problems that emerge will be addressed in collaboration between faculty, staff, and administration, including department chairs, directors, etc. We thus propose, in particular, that processes be developed for problem solving, conflict resolution, and, generally, addressing important issues as they arise. The statement also should include reference to a collaborative approach to implementation of the mission. One important issue the vision raises, implicitly, involves the possible reorganization of the college. We recommend that any items relating to reorganization be considered as they emerge, through ongoing participation by faculty and staff as well as application of problem solving processes, as indicated above. The subcommittee has begun such discussions, which are informed by previous work and current recommendations, and this work will continue. Limited discussions have been held on a specific proposal circulated by Len Waks, which provides an interesting heuristic for future discussions. However, we recognize that trying to design something to meet new circumstances, in the abstract and especially at this early stage of our discussions, is problematic. We are inclined, a least at present, toward a “design-build” approach that allows for flexibility and innovation but also provides support and protection to sustain the faculty’s and staff’s ability to contribute. We also recommend the following specific revisions to this part of the document: The first paragraph of “The External Challenge” should be revised to reflect a more balanced view of the problem. The wording suggests that colleges of education have failed to produce the appropriate research and “traditional schools” have failed to meet goals for a diverse population. While there is some truth to these statements, they also place more blame on universities and schools than is their due. Many schools have followed innovative practices based on sound research. Thus although results are problematic, the main issue is not entirely failure to attempt innovations and produce appropriate research. There is, for instance, the notorious proneness to change in school districts, and too-frequent changes in leadership which do not allow sufficient time for innovations to work. Similarly, there are economic and social factors that impact on students, families, and communities and work against innovations. The ground in which we plant our seeds, in other words, is not always the most fertile ground. The overall sense is that there are many parts to this problem. We thus recommend that the statement reflect some of this complexity and that educators not be made to shoulder the entire blame for these problems. 3. Mission implementation (including section “Need for new knowledge”) We endorse the mission implementation, subject to the recommendation made above, and with suggested changes that follow. Again, we experience a mix of excitement and concern in embarking in these directions. The proposed directions build on our current capacities, expertise, and interests. They should put us in a better position to support our students and lead them to excellence through teaching, research, and service. They will allow us to be innovative and responsive to opportunities as they arise. We look forward to developing deep, sound and lasting partnerships inside the college (between the college and institutes and centers) as well as between the college and a relatively small number of schools. We are eager to develop and implement research-based models that support education professionals in innovative ways, not only during their degree work, but beyond this work, ensuring they remain professionally connected and linked to supportive lifelines. We are pleased that quality is clearly on the agenda. There are also some concerns. The mix and emphases of initiatives will require adjustments. There are tensions in these proposals that will need to be addressed with forthrightness, transparency, and equity. Thus we will work with administration to establish appropriate problem solving processes. The above measures require resources. We are in agreement with their spirit but understand that it is imperative to address resource issues. For instance, there is a tension between enhancing quality and enrollment-based budgeting. We call on Central Administration to create a space that will allow the College a time-limited span of time (at least 2 to 3 years) to embark on these new initiatives with secure and predictable budgets. We are also concerned about the use of words that are at times coded and carry a baggage. “Flexibility,” especially when used in conjunction with “aggressiveness” and “market forces” (paragraph 4, p. 2) conjures approaches that are at times quite problematic. We thus propose that this wording be replaced with such terms as “currency,” as in “developing and remaining current about the needs and requirements of the field, so as to be able to respond in a short time span.” There is a concern that following the market not be done at the expense of the quality of degrees or the quality of life of personnel. 4. Standards of quality The subcommittee urges the college community to take quality standards in all seriousness. As we move toward new programs and practices, quality must not be sacrificed to market considerations. There may be tensions, for instance, between responding to new needs and emphasis on high quality. The integrity of doctoral (Ed.D and Ph.D.) degrees must be maintained. We recommend that standards of quality be designed based on practices of excellence in the field in question. Where no such standards exist, we must create them in the context of implementing new programs, through a “fast-track” process. Standards should fall within a range of acceptable work rather than insist on strict uniformity, so as to ensure that excellence and diversity are rewarded and supported. Adequate resources need to be allocated toward program design, evaluation and revision as appropriate. In particular, we are aware that standards are not simply a matter of mandates but involve the establishment of a culture of excellence, whereby all are encouraged and supported to perform work of the highest quality, in the spirit of coaching. 5. Next steps We have not had sufficient time to fully consider next steps. However, our discussions have yielded the following: A. We endorse the idea of focus groups, advisory bodies, a director for the collaborative, and practice professors. We expect to make recommendation on the criteria for selection of these bodies and personnel. B. We also recommend instituting a regional advisory group, that would meet more frequently than the national group (say, monthly or bimonthly, especially in the beginning), and a local advisory committee that would work closely with the Collaborative director. C. In line with the collaborative and field responsive nature of this initiative, we recommend that the models for excellence in urban (metropolitan) education we develop follow the principles of partnership, and of bottom-up as well as top-down. As an example, while “best practices” are often understood as universally valid models, regardless of the site for implementation, we propose “best practices” that are field sensitive and adapted to the particulars of a given site, with input from education professionals, students, and community members at that site. In this context, we assert the continued appropriateness of a variety of rigorous research methods -- qualitative, historical, theoretical, as well as quantitative -- that are selected based on what is most appropriate to the research at hand and the particularities of the site.
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