Inside Higher Ed
July 17th, 2014
The American Council on Education on Wednesday released two reports
from its Presidential Innovation Lab. The Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation-funded lab asks more than a dozen chief executives to think
about how technological, pedagogical, organizational and structural
innovations can close the student achievement gap.
The first paper, called "Unbundling Versus Designing Faculty Roles,"
traces the evolving role of the faculty, from mainly tutors in the 18
and 19th centuries, to the increasingly professionalized faculty of the
early and mid-20th century, to contemporary professors, for whom
teaching, research, service and others duties increasingly are
“unbundled” or disaggregated. The paper argues that this unbundling is
particularly acute in large introductory courses, where instructors
mainly teach rather than design courses, and in massive, open, online
courses, or MOOCs. At the same time, the paper says, unbundling is
occurring in myriad ways, and “there is no single model.”
A common concern related to such unbundling, the paper says, is the
potential for the decline of the “complete scholar,” whose research,
teaching and service combine to positively impact students. But, the
paper notes, community college teachers understandably may focus more on
teaching than research. The paper also says that technology can help
integrate teaching and research by making teaching more inquiry-driven,
and by making teaching a kind of research process through student data
analytics. The paper concludes that unbundling of professor duties is
not necessarily bad for students, but that it requires further study.
Colleges and universities may do well to study unbundling within their
institutions and more intentionally assign faculty roles based on their
evolving duties, as some institutions have done. But those conversations
also should happen at the national level, the paper says.